Total employment, excluding Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW), in Singapore contracted by 129,100 in the first half of 2020 (1H 2020), the largest half-yearly reduction on record, according to the republic’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

Citing the Labour Market Report Second Quarter 2020, Manpower Research & Statistics Department, MTI said foreign employment fell by 5.7 per cent or 66,400, sharper than the 2.7 per cent or 62,700 decline in local employment. “Foreign cutbacks were also more widespread across sectors,” it said.

The ministry said foreign employment cuts in 1H 2020 were mostly among Work Permit and Other Work Passes of 51,100, followed by S Pass of 11,200 and Employment Pass of 4,100. Excluding Construction, Marine Shipyard and Process, the decline in Work Pass was 32,900 in 1H 2020, it said.

MTI noted that the seasonally adjusted unemployment overall rates rose over the quarter in June 2020 to 2.8 per cent from 2.4 per cent, but remained below previous recessionary peaks. Meanwhile, the retrenchments rose sharply to 11,350 in 1H 2020, said the ministry. “This was higher than during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) period in the 1H 2003 of 10,120, but lower than other past recessionary peaks,” it said.

In addition, with the temporary stoppage or curtailment in business activities during Circuit Breaker, another 81,720 employees were placed on short work-week or temporary layoff in 2Q 2020. “This likely reduced the number of retrenchments,” it said.

On the labour market outlook, MTI said that there are several areas of strength in the Singapore economy. For example, the ministry said the Electronics and Precision Engineering clusters are likely to expand, driven by sustained global demand for semiconductors and semiconductor equipment. The Biomedical Manufacturing cluster is also expected to grow, supported by the production of pharmaceutical and biological products. Likewise, the Information & Communications sector is projected to expand this year on the back of continued demand for IT and digital solutions, while growth in the Finance & Insurance sector will be supported in part by the strong demand for digital payment processing services.
“Job vacancies also rose in several sectors,” it said.


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