Singapore’s Local Employment Grew, While Foreign Employment Contracted

The weaker and more uncertain economic environment in 2016 has presented a challenge to sustain growth and stem a rise in unemployment in Singapore.

Amid restructuring and a slower economy, local employment grew modestly in 2016, while foreign employment contracted, according to the "Labour Market Advance Release 2016" report released by the Manpower Research and Statistics Department, Ministry of Manpower.

Unemployment increased for residents and citizens. Redundancies were also higher. Median income for citizens continued to grow over the last five years, although growth slowed in 2016.

The annual average unemployment rate in 2016 rose to its highest since 2010 for overall (1.9% in 2015 to 2.1% in 2016), residents (2.8% to 3.0%) and citizens (2.9% to 3.1%).

The increase was broad based across most age and education groups, with residents aged 30 to 39 and 50 & over, as well as those with secondary and degree qualifications particularly affected.

Local employment

Local employment increased by an estimated 10,700 (or 0.5%) in 2016, rebounding from the flat growth in 2015. Local employment growth occurred in many services sectors, including community, social and personal services, professional services and transportation and storage.

On the other hand, foreign employment (excluding FDW) contracted in 2016 (-2,500 or -0.2%), the first time since 2009. Declines were mainly in construction and marine.

On the whole, total employment is estimated to have increased by 16,400 or 0.4% (8,200 excluding FDW) in 2016, the lowest growth since 2003.

The moderation in total employment took place amid slower growth in the Singapore economy, slowdown in local labour force growth, and continued tightening of FW policy.

Year-on-year, the median income of citizens grew at a slower pace in 2016. The nominal median monthly income from work of full-time employed citizens (including employer CPF contributions) rose by 0.7% over the year to $3,823 in June 2016, or 1.3% in real terms.

Income growth

There was sustained income growth at the median and 20th percentile over the last five years. The median income (including employer CPF contributions) of full-time employed citizens rose by 25% (4.5% p.a.) in nominal terms from 2011 to 2016, or 16% (3.1% p.a.), after adjusting for inflation.

Income at the 20th percentile of full-time employed Singaporeans also grew at a similar pace (17% or 3.2% p.a. in real terms). This was unlike in the earlier five years (2006 to 2011) when it grew at a slower rate than the median.

For the whole of 2016, redundancies rose to 19,000, mainly due to restructuring and a slower economy. Redundancies have trended up since 2010, but remained lower than the recessionary high in 2009. Layoffs increased across all broad sectors.


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