SINGAPORE: According to preliminary labour force data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday (Nov 30), Singaporean and Permanent Resident workers at the 20th-percentile salary level saw their real incomes fall 3 per cent year-on-year, while those drawing the median wage saw a 2.3 per cent decrease year-on-year.

The MOM attributed this to the “tight” labour market in 2023. It added that Singapore’s employment rate for residents aged 15 and over also fell from 2022’s historical high of 67.5 per cent in an “exceptionally tight” labour market to 66.2 per cent. The MOM also noted that labour demand is easing as the number of job vacancies fell for five consecutive quarters, and the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons “also dipped significantly” for the second consecutive quarter to 1.94 in June 2023. Mr Ang Boon Heng, director of MOM’s manpower research and statistics department, told reporters that despite the decline, Singapore still has one of the highest employment rates worldwide.

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“While real income growth for the remainder of 2023 is likely to remain negative, we expect an improvement in real income growth in 2024 with inflation easing”, the MOM said. It added: “Over a longer time horizon from 2013 to 2023, real income growth remained positive and wage dispersion narrowed between the (20th-percentile) worker and the median worker.”

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 7) that the real median income in Singapore fell by 4.5 per cent in the first half of this year in comparison to the first half of 2022. Mr Zaqy said that the figure is based on preliminary estimates and that workers in various sectors felt this decrease. Real median income is defined as the inflation-adjusted amount of money a median household earns per year. The Senior Minister of State said that the decrease in the real median income was due to higher inflation amid a weak economic outlook, although he added that inflation is expected to moderate for the rest of 2023. “That means, hopefully, the situation with the declines in real incomes potentially moderates,” Mr Zaqy said.

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