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Unemployment rate remains low and stable: Manpower Minister

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin told Parliament that the slight increase in quarterly unemployment rates could reflect higher job search activity, more vacancies and greater availability of flexi-work arrangements in a tight labour market.

SINGAPORE: The key challenge in helping Singapore's unemployed find jobs is ensuring their skills remain relevant to evolving industry needs.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin told Parliament on Wednesday (July 9) that although the quarterly unemployment rate for citizens rose slightly from 2.8 per cent in December 2013 to 3.0 per cent in March 2014, it remains low and has been largely stable for the past three years.

He said the slight increase in quarterly unemployment rates could reflect higher job search activity as higher wages, more vacancies and greater availability of flexible working arrangements in a tight labour market encourage more citizens to enter the labour force to look for jobs.

He said as the job search process may take some time, some slight increases in quarterly unemployment rates is expected and slight fluctuations in the unemployment rate are also to be expected across quarters.

"To help them upgrade their skills, we provide generous subsidies for the upgrading of skills through our Continuing Education and Training (CET) system. Jobseekers receive between 70 per cent and 90 per cent course fee subsidies depending on the type of courses and we also have Place-and-Train (PnT) programmes to help jobseekers find jobs and pick up the skills they need in their new jobs,” said Mr Tan.

“Most importantly, individuals must have the right mindset, learn new skills, and be open to different job opportunities in growing industries and of course we do need to create the conditions for which jobs are created so the economy needs to be healthy, in order for that to happen."

Jobseekers receive 90 per cent course fee subsidy for rank-and-file courses and 70 per cent course fee subsidy for PME courses.

"For (the) economically inactive who are returning to the workforce, being able to find a job that allows them to balance family and care-giving responsibilities is a key concern. We have recently enhanced the Work-Life Grant under the WorkPro scheme to provide greater support to companies to implement and sustain good work-life practices, such as flexible work arrangements," Mr Tan added.

Mr Tan said the profile of the unemployed is varied - about one in two of the unemployed citizens in March 2014 were aged 40 and over. In terms of educational qualifications, about half had secondary education or below. About one in five is long-term unemployed.

He said the ministry will continue to monitor the unemployment rate closely and work with tripartite partners to help unemployed Singaporeans find jobs. 

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