SINGAPORE: Amid weaker economic conditions, the employment of locals fell by 8,900 in the first half of 2015 while foreign employment growth – excluding maids – slowed to a six-year low, according to the Ministry of Manpower's labour market report released on Tuesday (Sep 15).
The decline in local employment was largely due to the exit of casual workers under the age of 25 from the workforce, after a spike in the hiring of such workers in the second half of last year.
Foreign employment growth, excluding foreign domestic workers, slowed to 8,000 in the first six months - the lowest half-yearly growth since 2009. The services sector accounted for the majority of the growth, and work permit holders accounted for the largest proportion of foreign employment growth in Services, according to the MOM report.
About 3.63 million people formed the workforce in Singapore, as of June this year. This is 2.1 per cent higher when compared to a year ago. However, the pace of increase is slowing down, compared to the 3.8 per cent increase in June 2014.
Industry experts said this was due to the weak economic conditions.
"Much of the slowdown in hiring in Singapore market is also driven by external factors, especially China's economy slowdown," said Mr Foo See Yang, acting country general manager at Kelly Services Singapore. "And also in the US, (there is) the Federal Reserve interest rate and the recent currency interplay. All of these will have an impact on our labour market in the next 12 months."
The overall unemployment rate remained unchanged at 2.9 per cent in June 2015. The resident long-term unemployment rate also remained low at 0.7 per cent.
Overall employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, dipped by 1,000, a decline from the growth of 52,200 in the same period last year.
INCOMES UP, PRODUCTIVITY DOWN
The tight labour market continued to push up the real median income of full-time employed Singaporeans, which rose by 1.4 per cent last year.
Productivity remained weak, falling by 0.5 per cent in the first half of 2015. The manufacturing and construction sectors saw productivity declines of 2 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively. Within the services sector, finance and insurance registered the strongest productivity growth, rising by 3.2 per cent, while the accommodation and food services saw the sharpest decline in productivity, falling 3.7 per cent.
Labour supply is likely to remain tight, which is expected to continue to push up wages, MOM said, adding that productivity is unlikely to increase significantly this year. Local employment growth is expected to moderate this year, following two years of strong growth.
The tight labour market is also expected to continue to place upward pressure on wages.
To help displaced older workers - especially professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) - find jobs, programmes such as the Career Support Programme are expected to kick in in October.
"If we can encourage and provide more support coming out for this group of people, it will provide them the opportunity to re-look at the skills they have, the competencies they have, the experience and see to what extent they can refresh," said Mr David Ang, director of corporate services at Human Capital (Singapore).
"So to what extent, how can we better counsel and advise this group of people in terms of their present set of skills vis-a-vis what they are looking for in the future, the jobs available in Singapore and what skillsets they need. So there will be some job mismatch, but with this career support, I think we should better match people to the job," he added.
MOM said it will continue with efforts to strengthen the Singaporean core while reducing the country’s reliance on foreign manpower.