Singapore— Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said what sets the current economic downturn apart from previous ones is that this time, the job market has not felt the effect quite so badly and that good employment opportunities can still be found in certain sectors.
She described the present condition as “persistent showers but with pockets of sunshine” when speaking to members of the press on November 27, Wednesday, ahead of the latest Manpower Ministry’s Labour Force in Singapore Advance Release, according to a report from TODAY.
The release shows the resident employment rate was 80.8 percent last June, which is higher than last year’s rate of 80.3 percent. More residents have been finding employment in the professional services, financial and insurance services sectors.
Additionally, according to the Manpower Minister, firms have continued to hire and add jobs to the economy, even though economic growth has only been a small margin over 0 percent and the number of retrenchments has in fact been on the rise.
She said, “This time round, I think it is harder to characterise what’s going on, but I think we want to characterise it properly, so as not to cause our job seekers to lose hope.”
Ms Teo compared the current situation to the global financial crisis of 2009. “At the time, a regular year’s retrenchment for Singapore was around 15,000, and analysts were projecting 2009 job losses to hit 100,000. So (it was a) really sudden downpour, a thunderstorm. You don’t see that today. No analyst is coming up to make this kind of outlandish projection.”
In the same way, financial crises in 1998, 2001 and 2003 had been “very, very frightening years” for the country.
This time, she says, things are not the same, due to the opportunities at hand. “But actually if you compare today to those years, I think it’s not the same. There are difficulties but there are also opportunities at this time.”
But Ms Teo also acknowledged that the Government should find better channels to direct people seeking employment to where available jobs are, in order to address the disconnect between the feeling on the ground that jobs are not readily available, and its statistics that show the rise in employment.
“And I think we also keep in mind that at any one time our unemployment is maybe about 3 percent. Now even with a resident workforce of 2.3 million, 3 percent is still about 60,000 people. So, for 60,000 people to tell you that they haven’t seen the jobs, it’s not so surprising itself. But weigh that against the 97 percent who are in jobs, you also can reflect their views.”
According to the labour force report, manufacturing has been the among hardest hit of all the sectors, while community, social and personal services, professional services , information and communications, financial services and food and beverage sectors show the biggest growth.
Between June 2018 and June 2019, 41,700 Singaporean residents were hired in the sectors mentioned above.
“Headline figures sometimes make people worried, and they give people the impression that the vacancies are not there, the job opportunities have closed up.
But… there are many companies that will tell you that they are still very short of people.”
The hard-hit manufacturing sector filled 6,000 vacancies in June, she added.
The Manpower Minister said that the Government would continue to do its part in all this. “That will remain our focus: help people enter into jobs where there is potential for growth, where there’s potential for advancement,” TODAY adds. -/TISG