SINGAPORE: Singapore's total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, declined for the first time since 2003 by an estimated 10,700 last year, according to preliminary estimates released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Friday (Jan 26).
The fall was due to a larger contraction in foreign employment of 32,000 in 2017, compared to 2,500 in 2016, MOM said in its Labour Market Advance Release.
However, local employment grew by an estimated 21,300 in 2017, nearly double the growth of 11,200 in 2016.
The increase occurred in most services sectors, including community, social and personal services, financial and insurance services, transportation and storage as well as administrative and support services.
On the other hand, the foreign employment decline was mainly due to the decrease in Work Permit Holders in the construction and marine sectors, MOM said.
Total employment grew for the first time in the year by 12,800 in the fourth quarter, after contracting in the first three quarters. Excluding foreign domestic workers, total employment grew by 10,700, still higher than the increase in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The increase was due to larger employment growth in services, supported by hiring for the year-end festive season, MOM said. Manufacturing and construction employment continued to contract, but at a slower pace, it added.
HIGHER UNEMPLOYMENT RATE OVER FULL YEAR
Over the full year, the average unemployment rate in 2017 was higher than that of 2016 overall at 2.2 per cent compared to 2.1 per cent, for residents at 3.1 per cent compared to 3 per cent and for citizens at 3.3 per cent compared to 3.1 per cent.
However, Singapore's overall unemployment rate declined slightly on a seasonally adjusted basis in the fourth quarter of last year from the previous quarter.
The overall unemployment rate declined to 2.1 per cent in December from 2.2 per cent in September, the ministry said.
Among Singaporeans, the rate declined from 3.2 per cent in September to 3 per cent in December, while it decreased from 3.1 per cent to 2.9 per cent in the same period for residents.
Compared to a year ago, the overall unemployment rate was lower overall, as well as for both citizens and residents.
In December, an estimated 67,400 residents were unemployed, lower than the 71,600 in September 2017. Fewer citizens were unemployed as well, with 57,700 in December compared to 62,300 in September.
There were fewer retrenchments in 2017 compared to the year before, at 14,340 compared to 19,170.
Compared with 2016, the number of layoffs declined in manufacturing and services and remained similar in construction, MOM said.
In the fourth quarter, there were 3,300 retrenchments, slightly fewer than the 3,400 in the previous quarter and lower than the 5,440 a year before.
Retrenchments declined over the quarter in construction and services, but rose in manufacturing, according to the ministry.
CRUCIAL FOR WORKERS TO UPGRADE, UP-SKILL: PATRICK TAY
NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said in a Facebook post on Friday that it is "crucial for workers to continuously upgrade and up-skill themselves so they can take on the new and in-demand jobs amidst the rapidity of digital and technology disruption".
Mr Tay said that despite the cyclical uptrend in 2017 and a positive outlook into 2018, he would expect to still see "pockets of layoffs due to technological and digital disruption with companies and businesses re-examining their strategies/focus".
He noted that the decline in total employment was due to foreign workers being released in the marine and construction sectors, which are affected by cyclical weakness. There are expected to be good job opportunities in the manufacturing sector and services sectors such as in infocomm and media, finance and insurance, healthcare and engineering, he said.
"The labour movement will continue to work closely with our tripartite partners to support workers and help them to take on new opportunities and progress in their careers. We will also work closely with the tripartite partners to operationalise the many industry transformation maps," Mr Tay said.