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Effects of Covid-19 on Singapore's workforce varied across sectors and ages; pace of increase in unemployment rate slowed in October

Amala Balakrishner
Amala Balakrishner • 3 min read
Effects of Covid-19 on Singapore's workforce varied across sectors and ages; pace of increase in unemployment rate slowed in October
MOM notes that resident unemployment levels have rebounded to near pre-Covid levels in 3Q2020
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The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on resident employment rate in Singapore has been varied across age groups, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) reveals in its Labour Market Report on Dec 3.

The findings were deduced based on a comparison of employment rates at the height of the pandemic in June 2020 to that in June 2019.

In spite of curbs in operations of several sectors, the employment rate of residents aged 25 to 64 came in at 80.3% in June 2020, comparable to the 80.5% average rate seen in the last five years.

Employment rates of females within the age bracket dipped slightly to 73.2% in this June, compared to 73.3% the year before, while that for men came in at 87.9%, down 0.9% points from the 88.8% in June 2019.

Meanwhile, the employment rate for residents aged 65 and above improved by 0.9% points to 28.5% in June, from the 27.6% seen in the previous year. This is the result of initiatives such as the Special Employment Credit rendered to support the employment of seniors, MOM notes.

Conversely, the employment rate for youths aged 15 to 24, slid to 30.9%, from the 33.9% registered in June 2019. MOM attributes this to more youths in the age group remaining in education as well as the decline in part-time job opportunities from the hospitality and retail sectors during the pandemic.

An interesting statistic was that the resident unemployment rate for non-PMETs increased by 1.7% points between June 2019 and June 2020, sharper than the 0.6% point rise registered among PMETs. This is as, non-PMETs mostly work in industries that took a greater hit from the Covid-19 pandemic, MOM observes.

PMETs is an acronym for professionals, managers, executives and technicians.

Overall, the unemployment rates for both PMETs and non-PMETs remained below previous recessionary peaks in June 2020.

In this time, the long-term unemployment rates edged up marginally, at 0.1% points for non-PMETs and 0.2% points for PMETs.

In a bid to help job seekers, the National Jobs Council has been looking to create jobs, traineeships, attachments and training opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. As at end September, some 45,000 job seekers have been placed in these opportunities with about half being in non-PMET roles.

To support hiring by firms, the government has set aside $1 billion for the Jobs Growth Incentive.

Despite ongoing efforts to tide the job market through the downturn, the real median income of residents working full time was down 0.3% in 2020, according to preliminary data. This is a reversal from the 2.2% growth seen in 2019.

Still, the 2.7% per annum expansion in real median income between 2015 to 2020 is comparable to the 3.1% growth seen in the preceding five -year period between 2010 to 2015.

Industries that took a greater hit from the pandemic had a higher concentration of low-income earners. This includes self-employed persons whose earnings were reduced in this time, says MOM.

Collectively, these developments saw the real income of full-timers at the 20th percentile falling by 4.5% in June 2020, based on preliminary data.

Over a five year period from 2015 to 2020, real income growth at the 20th percentile is was 2.9% (based on preliminary estimates), slightly higher than the 2.7% per annum growth between 2015 to 2020.

MOM notes that resident employment levels have rebounded to near pre-Covid levels in 3Q2020 ended September, thanks to a pickup in employment growth from community, social and personal services (such as healthcare and public administration) and food and beverage services.

With this, the overall unemployment rate was unchanged in October 2020. The unemployment rate was unchanged for citizens, but inched up by 0.1% points residents compared to September 2020.

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