Singapore employment rate edges up but income growth slows, ministry reports

The Ministry of Manpower labour report says overall employment in Singapore is up slightly from June 2018 to June 2019 but the rate of income growth fell. — TODAY pic
The Ministry of Manpower labour report says overall employment in Singapore is up slightly from June 2018 to June 2019 but the rate of income growth fell. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Nov 29 — Despite economic headwinds, the overall employment rate in Singapore rose slightly as of June this year from a year earlier as more women joined the workforce, but income growth slowed markedly, a new report showed.

The Labour Force in Singapore Advance Release 2019, published yesterday by the Ministry of Manpower (MoM), said the real median income of full-time employed residents grew by 2.2 per cent this year, half the 4.4 per cent rate of growth seen last year.

Their median monthly income as of June this year was S$4,563 (RM13,948), up from S$4,437 in June 2018, which was a more pronounced increase from S$4,232 in June 2017.

While income growth had slowed, MoM pointed out that the real median income growth in the past five years was still significantly higher than the preceding five years – which took in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis.

From 2014 to 2019, real median income grew by 3.8 per cent a year, whereas the figure was just 1.9 per cent from 2009 to 2014.

Unemployment situation

In terms of unemployment, professionals, managers, executives or technicians (PMETs) fared markedly better than non-PMETs (that is, workers who lack formal qualifications, broadly speaking), according to the annual report.

For PMETs

The unemployment rate held steady at 2.9 per cent

The long-term unemployment rate decreased from 0.8 per cent to 0.6 per cent

MoM said this is a result of more workers getting hired in “modern services” sectors including information and communications, and financial and insurance services.

For non-PMETs

The unemployment rate increased from 4 per cent to 4.7 per cent

The long-term unemployment increased from 0.7 per cent to 0.8 per cent

The ministry attributed these figures to “cyclical effects”, such as the ongoing United States-China trade conflict which has affected manufacturing output and retail trade — both sectors that employ lower skilled workers.

Employment situation

The employment rate for residents aged 25 to 64 rose from 80.3 per cent to 80.8 per cent

The rate for women rose from 72.3 per cent to 73.3 per cent last year, while the employment rate for men stayed high, at 88.8 per cent – the sixth highest among the 36 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

The rate for women has risen every year since 2009, when the rate was 63.9 per cent

The employment rate for older workers aged 65 and over rose from 26.8 per cent to 27.6 per cent, with increases for both genders, as official efforts to encourage the employment of older workers bore some fruit.

Types of employees: Contract vs permanent vs ad hoc

An increase in the proportion of employees on fixed-term contracts – from 7.2 per cent in June last year to 7.6 per cent in June this year – suggests “cautious hiring” among employers who are facing uncertainty, MoM said.

This resulted in a slight dip in the proportion of permanent employees, from 89.4 per cent last year to 89.3 per cent this year. But in terms of absolute numbers, there were more permanent employees this year than last year, and this group continued to form the vast majority of resident employees, MoM pointed out.

As for casual or “on-call” employees – those employed on an ad hoc basis as and when the company requires additional manpower – the proportion of these workers continued to drop from 3.4 per cent last year to 3.1 per cent this year, and down from 5.1 per cent a decade ago. MoM said this reflects an improvement in the education profile of the labour force.

Fewer working hours

The MoM report also revealed that the number of working hours Singaporeans put in has dropped for the ninth successive year, from 43 hours in June 2018 to 42.9 hours this year.

The ministry said the decline reflects a continued increase in the share of part-timers in the workforce, which outweighed the slight increase in average usual hours worked of part-timers, from 20.9 to 21.1 hours.

The average number of hours put in by full-timers weekly held steady, at 45.8 hours, after trending down from its peak in 2010, when employees worked 49.2 hours a week.

In a 10-year comparison with other OECD countries, Singapore registered the third-largest decline in average usual weekly hours worked. The average drop in working hours from 2009 to 2019 was 2.7 hours, more than Japan’s 2.6 hours.

The two countries recording the greatest decline were Turkey and South Korea, with a drop of 4.8 hours and 4.5 hours respectively. — TODAY