An estimated 96,400 (non-seasonally adjusted)
residents were unemployed in December 2003. About one in every
five (23% or 22,000) of them had been looking for job for at least
six months. This was a decline from 27% (or 23,900) long-term
unemployed residents a year ago.
With improving business sentiments, retrenchments
dropped in the fourth quarter to 2,784, about two thirds the
number laid off in the third quarter. This brought retrenchments
for the whole of 2003 to 16,400 workers, down 14% from the year
before. In 2003, the services sector (49% of total retrenchments)
has for the first time since 1990, overtaken manufacturing (45% of
total retrenchments) in terms of number of workers they lay off.
For the second consecutive year, professionals,
managers, executives & technicians (PMET) (16.7 retrenched per
1000 employed) overtook production & related workers (15.8 per
1000) to post the highest incidence of retrenchment. The PMETs
accounted for the largest group (40%) of locals retrenched in 2003
compared with production & related (34%) and clerical, sales
& services (26%) workers.
Despite the improvement in economic conditions,
the re-employment of retrenched workers has declined in December.
Based on CPF records, 60% of the locals retrenched in the third
quarter 2003 found re-employment by December 2003 (within 6 months
after retrenchment), down from 68% experienced by the previous
cohort in September 2003. The decline could have occurred on the
back of improving sentiments, as job seekers defer their job
search until after the festivities. Younger workers aged below 30
were the most re-employable with 74% finding a new job within 6
months, in contrast to just half (50%) of older workers aged 50
& over. By qualifications, the degree holders (53%) and the
lower educated without secondary qualifications (54%) faced
greater difficulty securing re-employment than the rest (more than
There were 13,070 private sector job openings1 in
December 2003, up 1.2% from a year ago. With the improvement in
unemployment, the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons
rose to 30 job openings for every 100 job seekers (seasonally
adjusted), from the trough of 18 per 100 in September 2003.
Although the first half of 2003 proved difficult,
indicators for the second half show an improving labour market.
Given the expectation that the economy will perform better this
year, the recovery in the job market on the whole is likely to be
sustained, even though there may be quarterly fluctuations. It is
important that wage pressures do not undermine cost
competitiveness, bearing in mind that restructuring and pressures
to outsource jobs to lower cost countries will continue to pose
challenges to creation of jobs locally.