Singapore—The country may take as long as four years in order to recover the jobs lost to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in the South China Morning Post (SCMP). The current economic crisis will likely have an even greater impact than the Asian financial crisis in 1997, with some jobs possibly lost forever.
The challenge ahead for Singapore may be especially tough, given its aging population, with over 35 percent of the workforce at age 50 and older.
At the center of this crisis is the question of employment. The Ministry of Manpower reported last week that 147,500 jobs have been lost in Singapore since the beginning of the year, which the SCMP notes is the sharpest contraction on record.
A senior economist at Maybank Kim Eng, Chua Hak Bin, is quoted by SCMP as saying, “Covid-19 has been a lot more destructive than past recessions on jobs, in terms of speed and scale, and as the economy undergoes this big structural change, some jobs will be permanently lost.
It’s going to take a few years for jobs to shift across sectors, and for the workforce to adjust to new skills and requirements. This period of transition is going to be difficult. There’s no magic pill.”
Mr Chua added that while the economy may return to its rate of growth before the pandemic in two years, it may take as long as four years for the lost jobs to be recovered. What may help Singapore would be “well-capitalised banks, steady monetary policies and dramatic government responses,” according to the SCMP report.
The Government is keeping an extra watchful eye on mid-career workers. The biggest group in the country’s labour force is between the ages of 45 to 49, with those from the ages of 40 to 44 in the second largest group.
Among the financial offers to companies as part of the Government’s economic stimulus endeavours has been salary incentives for hiring employees from the age of 40 and above. The Government’s goal is to double the yearly placement of locals in this demographic to around 5,500 in five years.
According to the chairman of the National Jobs Council, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a nationwide endeavour has been necessary to aid older workers.
In July he said, “We will spare no effort to help them carry on with their careers in the most productive jobs they can do, so that they can continue to provide for their families and contribute to Singapore.”
But job cuts may not have ended yet, with more and more companies still reeling from the crisis.
“Covid-19 is like a train wreck. You’re starting to see ramifications on a lot of sectors and aspects of life that you wouldn’t have foreseen at the start. But without the government’s funding and skills support, the local job market conditions would have deteriorated much faster,” SCMP quotes the head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank Selena Ling, as saying.
The Government wants to keep older workers at their jobs, while at the same time re-skilling workers who are in industries where jobs have disappeared so they can work in other sectors, which comes with its own challenges.
Mid-career workers need to have the right mindset for this. “Mid-career workers need to be prepared to be flexible, and that’s one of the biggest challenges. On the one hand, they don’t want to settle for a job that’s below their pay grade because employers place a lot of emphasis on last drawn salary and position, and there’s understandable fear that future employers may use that against you.
But workers have to balance that fear against the fact that the longer somebody is out of the market, the greater the odds they never return. A lot of them transit from unemployment to long-term unemployment, and then to being out of the labour market completely,” said associate professor at the Singapore University of Social Sciences Walter Theseira.
Keeping older employees in the workforce is one way to keep the economy strong, with is why the retirement age has left going up. The more seniors are unemployed, the slower economic growth will be. —/TISG