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Singapore's jobless rate edges up further in August

Amala Balakrishner
Amala Balakrishner • 3 min read
Singapore's jobless rate edges up further in August
Economists expect job losses for the year to range between 180,000 and 220,000.
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Singapore’s labour market is still under the weather from the Covid-19 health-turned-economic crisis, despite the resumption of activities such dining and in-store shopping. Resident unemployment edged up 0.4 percentage points to 4.5% in August — slightly higher than the 0.3 percentage point increase in July, when Singapore’s resident unemployment rate was 4.1%.

“We observe that while monthly unemployment rates have so far generally remained lower than past recessionary highs, it has been gradually rising,” said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in its weekly “Jobs Situation Report” on Oct 7.

For context, in September 2009, when the Global Financial Crisis paralysed the banking system, the unemployment rate in Singapore was 4.9%. Earlier, during the height of the SARS pandemic in September 2003, the corresponding rate was 6.2%.

“We cannot tell, at this point in time, whether in the coming months, the unemployment rate will uptick at a faster rate, or stay around the same,” notes Manpower Minister Josephine Teo. “Nonetheless we’re keeping a very close watch, and when the next set of figures are available, we will also share them with the public.”

Another worrying statistic is that that incidence of local retrenchment came in at 4.9 per 1,000 local employees in the first half of the year.

According to MAS, the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) which is a blanket wage subsidy — slated to offset some of the rise in the resident unemployment rate by 1.7% this year. This translates to about 155,000 jobs being saved between 2020 and 2021, MOM’s report notes.

The JSS, which Maybank Kim Eng (MKE) economists Chua Hak Bin and Lee Ju Ye estimate to cost $26 billion in total, has helped cushion further job losses. Yet, with the uncertain economic climate, they are still expecting job losses for the year to range between 180,000 and 220,000.

To address this, Singapore has been creating more opportunities, with 33,100 locals having found jobs and training spots since May. More recently, the government has also created 117,500 opportunities for training and attachment as at end-August.

The problem now is that the process of matching job vacancies to jobseekers is not so straight forward, Heng noted on Oct 7. “If we persist in the effort, I think jobseekers will be able to find something that they may like. There’s a very good suite of programmes to help our people build new skills, so I hope our workers can make full use of these schemes,” he said.

In response to this, HR experts are encouraging jobseekers to adopt a “lateral mindset” where they are open to opportunities across sectors instead of restricting themselves to a particular industry.

“It’s all about what an individual can offer the company,” Yolanda Yu, a career coach at Catalyst-U tells The Edge Singapore. “He/she need not be trained in that particular sector but what is important is being open to learning and opportunities available.”

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