SINGAPORE (June 28): Some 5.2% of young Singapore residents aged 15 to 29 were unemployed in 2018 – more than double the unemployment rates faced by other age groups, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in the latest first quarter labour market report.

Overall, 2.9% of residents were unemployed last year. Some 2.2% of residents in their 30s were unemployed, compared with 2.3% of residents in their 40s, and 2.6% of residents aged 50 and above.

In addition, only 84.4% of degree holders between the ages of 20 and 29 were employed, according to MOM data.

In a statement to The Edge Singapore, MOM clarified that unemployment rate refers to the percentage of unemployed in the labour force.

In line with international definitions, if a person is not working and not actively looking for work or available for work, he is considered as outside the labour force rather than unemployed.

Official statistics indicate that the vast majority – some 92% – of residents outside the labour force aged below 30 are in education or training.

In a 2016 study, the National Youth Survey showed that there are some 20,100 individuals known as NEETS, or Not in Education, Employment or Training.

This accounted for 4.1% of the resident youth population in 2016, growing from 3.7% in 2013.

With the number of Neets on the rise, policymakers will be under pressure to find solutions to address their inability to secure a job.

Some experts say there is a large proportion of young and educated individuals who are just not able to secure a job – whether permanent or temporary.

However, MOM data for 1Q19 shows that the ratio of unemployed persons to job vacancies is 1:1.08, indicating that there are more positions available than job seekers.

This is down from a ratio of 1:1.10 recorded last December, as total employment (excluding foreign domestic workers) rose by 10,700 in 1Q.

Yet, why is it that fresh graduates seem to be having a harder time than others in securing employment? Are they – the so-called “strawberry generation” – being too picky?

Is it just a cyclical issue, owing to the current uncertainties over the health of the global economy, which is exacerbated by geopolitical tensions?

Or, is it a consequence of a deeper, structural problem in Singapore’s economy?

Read more about how worsening macroeconomic conditions are making it even harder for fresh graduates to find work in our cover story on The Edge Singapore (Issue 888, week of July 1), available at newsstands now.

Subscribers can log in to read the online version here: “Young, educated and jobless

*This story was updated at 1.15pm on July 2 to correct factual inaccuracies in the story. We apologise for the errors