Employment in Q2 recovers to near pre-pandemic levels, but MOM warns of uncertainty ahead

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said the republic’s labour market continued to improve in the second quarter of 2022, with total employment reaching 99.5 per cent of the level in December 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Resident employment grew to 4.2 per cent above the pre-pandemic level in June. While non-resident employment remained 10 per cent below the pre-pandemic level, it increased significantly from the first quarter of the year following the relaxation of border restrictions.

However, MOM said the external demand outlook has weakened, given the economic slowdown. Global headwinds, such as the war in Ukraine, inflationary pressures, geopolitical tensions in the region, and the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, mean that the labour market outlook is uneven across sectors. MOM permanent secretary Ng Chee Khern said that the job market remains tight but there are early signs of easing as recruitment has picked up. “Businesses could strengthen their Singaporean core through reskilling and offering flexible work arrangements to tap on more workforce segments such as older workers and caregivers.”

Tourism and aviation sectors are expected to continue to benefit from a strong recovery in air passengers and international visitor arrivals. Demand in consumer-facing sectors, such as food and beverages services, should also remain robust with the easing of domestic and border restrictions, said MOM. But growth in outward-oriented sectors like finance and insurance services is expected to slow due to the global headwinds. The ministry added that the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed people remains high and edged up from 2.42 in March to 2.53 in June. This is despite the number of job vacancies dipping slightly to 126,100 in June, after seven quarters of increases.

Responding to a reporter’s question about whether the labour market tightness will persist, Mr Ng warned that one should “be careful what you ask for” and pointed out retrenchment exercises – giving the example of Food Panda – that made the news recently. With the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates, many people are expecting a recession in the United States, he said. “The labour demand would ease sooner than you think and it may not necessarily be a good situation,” said Mr Ng. The growth in total employment in the second quarter, by 108,500 workers, was in large part due to foreign workers returning to Singapore, particularly in construction and manufacturing.


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