For the first time in seven years, fewer Singaporean workers lost their jobs in 2017. The pay of the average workers also went up. These achievements indicated that the country has started to recover from the economic downturn, following better-than-expected economic growth last year.
Singaporean economists expressed the optimism that the development will continue this year, after reading the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s preliminary full-year data. DBS economist, Irvin Seah believes the improvement in the service sector will enable more sustainable growth in the long term. Calling this case as ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ he expected that this condition will create more job opportunities.
The service and manufacturing sectors see lower retrenchments last year, as it was able to push down from 19,170 layoffs in 2016 to 14,340 in 2017. Additionally, there was also increasing number of local residents in employment, while overall employment dipped, Straits Times reports.
However, despite these improvements, Singaporean’s annual average unemployment rate went up last year, as it hit 3.3 percent against 3.1 percent in 2016. This partly pushed up the overall jobless rate to 2.2 percent, from 2.1 percent. The quarterly report indicated that Singapore turned the corner in the second of last year. Last December, the unemployment rate for Singaporeans was down from 3.5 to 3 percent after adjusted for seasonal variations. When citizens are combined with permanent residents, the rate was 2.9 percent, down from 3.2 percent.
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These improved figures in the last quarter reflected higher economic growth, said observers. The growth hit 3.5 percent last year, increased more than double the initial forecasts. This year growth is projected to expand between 1.5 and 3.5 percent. OCBC economist, Selena Ling said that while fresh graduates and professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) should face better prospects, the unemployment rate will not improve much as it is already quite low.
Additionally, Singaporeans with median income saw higher earnings growth last year. After taking inflation into account, the real median income of full-time Singaporean workers rose quite significantly from 1.3 percent in 2016 to 5.3 per cent year-on-year as of June 2017.
These income figures include employers’ contributions to the Central Provident Fund. Regarding to this data, MOM said that the higher median could reflect the pickup in economic growth and continued skills upgrading of the workforce. Lower-wage Singaporeans also witnessed increasing real income.
Mr Seah said the strong wage growth could be attributed to less slacking labour market, and companies passing on rewards to workers. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, Mr Patrick Tay finds the income growth encouraging. However, workers might not feel real positive income increases, given that daily essentials are more costly nowadays, he said in a Facebook post.
As for job opportunities this year, the MOM said they are in manufacturing and the service sector. But MOM cautioned some obstacles in this sector, including growing job-skills mismatch that might be due to ongoing economic restructuring and shifts in the composition of the resident labour force.
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