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Singapore Labour Market 2004 Report


Bolstered by the strong economic performance in 2004, employment grew by 71,400, more than recovering the job losses totalling 35,900 over the preceding three years, the Ministry of Manpower said in its annual state of the labour market report, “Labour Market, 2004”.

Services-producing industries contributed the bulk of the employment gains with an addition of 54,700 workers in 2004. This was nearly seven times the jobs created in 2003 (8,000). Employment in manufacturing rose by a robust 27,200, its strongest annual gain in 16 years. The construction sector registered a smaller employment loss than a year ago (-9,100 as against -17,500 in 2003).
Taking up the bulk (70%) of the growth, local employment rose by 49,900 in 2004, much higher than the previous year’s gains of 14,900. This is the highest number of jobs created for locals on record, barring the robust gains of 58,400 in the year 2000 recovery from the Asian Crisis.
Foreign employment rose for the first time in four years, by 21,500 in 2004. Nevertheless, the foreign share of the job gains at 30% remained lower than the 61% experienced during the boom years of 1993 to 1997 when the economy created more jobs than what locals could take on.
As at December 2004, there were 621,400 foreigners working in Singapore out of a total employment pool of 2,206,600 persons. The share of foreigners in the workforce (28.2%) was largely unchanged from a year ago (28.1%).
Reflecting the strong employment creation, the year ended with a seasonally adjusted overall unemployment rateP of 3.7% in December 2004, significantly lower than the 4.6% a year ago.
Nevertheless, structural unemployment remains a concern. Some 22,100 or close to three in every ten (28%) of resident job seekers were unemployed for at least 25 weeks in December 2004. These long-term unemployed persons constitute 1.2% of the resident labour force, same as in December 2003, but well above the average of 0.4% in the early 1990s.
The final quarter of 2004 saw a jump in layoffs from 1,967 in the third quarter to 3,207, due mainly to a rise in retrenchment in the transport & supporting services and the manufacturing sector. Nevertheless, retrenchment for the year at 10,191 is still the lowest since the Asian Crisis of 1998 (29,086).
Private sector establishments reported 16,2001 job openings in December 2004, 24% higher than the same period a year ago (13,100).
Compared to September 2004, the number of job vacancies was 14% lower due to seasonal reasons as vacancies usually fall towards the end of the year. Excluding seasonal influences, December’s job vacancies were broadly unchanged from September’s.
Consequently, the seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancy to unemployed persons held steady at 42p job openings for every 100 job seekers in December 2004, after the rise in September. Although this was a significant improvement from 28 per 100 in December 2003, it fell short of the high of 116 recorded in September 2000 during the rebound from the Asian crisis.
As the economy transits to slower growth in 2005, amid declining demand for electronics and high oil prices, new jobs will still be created but the pace of jobs growth will be slower.
Structural unemployment also remains a concern. It is therefore important for workers and wages to stay competitive and flexible so that the workforce will be in a better position to respond to changing economic conditions.
For more information
The report is available online at the Ministry of Manpower’s website:

Source: Ministry of Manpower Press Release 15 Mar 2005


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15 March 2005