Business & Economy Manpower Minister: New citizens have negligible effect on citizen unemployment rate

Manpower Minister: New citizens have negligible effect on citizen unemployment rate

Workers' Party NCMP had asked by how much people employed in Singapore who attain citizenship affect the jobless rate

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Singapore — In Parliament on Monday (Jan 3), Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that having new citizens has had a “negligible” effect on the country’s rate of citizen unemployment.

Mrs Teo had been asked by Workers’ Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera about the extent to which people employed in Singapore who attain citizenship affect the unemployment rate for citizens on a yearly basis.

She said that can be answered based on the Labour Force Survey, which asks for the citizenship of the respondent when he or she answers the survey, but not necessarily when he or she became a citizen.

Therefore, straitstimes.com reports her as saying, breaking down the unemployment rate according to how long a person has been a citizen is not possible.

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But adding new citizens does not alter the unemployment rate for citizens in any substantive way, she added.

Mrs Teo said: “Suppose the citizen unemployment rate is three per cent. This means, if there were only 100 citizens in the labour force, three of them are unemployed. Suppose one new citizen, who is employed, is added to the labour force.

“This translates to a one per cent growth in the citizen labour force. There are now 101 citizens in the labour force, but still only three who are unemployed.

“As a result, the citizen unemployment rate falls by 0.03 percentage points to 2.97 per cent. Compared to three per cent, the effect is mathematically very small.”

From 3.5 million citizens in Singapore, a portion significantly less than 1 per cent obtained citizenship within the last year. Some of these are working adults, the Manpower Minister said, and others are either too young to work, and others are already in the retirement stage.

Mrs Teo explained: “This means that the impact to the citizen labour force and unemployment rate is essentially negligible.”

With the slowing down of the economy last year, job security has been an issue important to many Singaporeans, especially Singaporean professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

In a commentary last month, one analyst said that protecting jobs for PMETs should be a top domestic priority.

Writing in The Diplomat, Ms Siow Yue Chia, a Senior Research Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said that the inflow of overseas skilled workers had  been seen to take PMET jobs away from Singaporeans.

Given changes in technology as well as sluggish economic growth, she expected the issue of job protection for local PMETs to become more politicised.

So far, the Government has, firstly, encouraged local workers to train and re-train in order to attain the skills needed in current jobs. Secondly, it has announced that, due to an increase in foreign investments, new jobs are being created to address retrenchments. Third, it is making sure of fair recruitment practices as well as enforcing the Employment Pass requirements for skilled workers and professionals from other countries. /TISG

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