Singapore's labor market bleeds: Redundancy at 7-year high, employment growth plunges

A total of 15,580 workers were laid off in 2015, up from 12,930 the year before while local employment addition fell to 700 from 96,000 in 2014.

In Singapore, the number of layoffs has increased 20% in the year 2015 to its highest since the great global financial crisis even though the unemployment rate has remained little changed according to the labor market report by the Manpower Ministry on 15 March.

The growth of local employment has fallen to its lowest in more than 10 years. The number of Singaporeans and Permanent Residents in jobs rose by just 700 over the year compared to the 96,000 growth registered in 2014.

Foreign employment addition has been on a downward track for the past several years and it has dropped to 22,600 in 2015 from 26,000 a year ago. It compares to the 2011 addition of 79,800.

Altogether, the total number of workers in Singapore, not including foreign domestic workers, was up just 0.7% at the end of last year to 3,656,200.

A total of 15,580 workers were laid off in 2015, the highest since 2009 which saw 23,430 workers laid off, said the Manpower Ministry on Tuesday. The number of redundancies climbed 20% from 12,930 the year before.

The Manpower Ministry also said, in Singapore, it is now harder to find a new job after losing one. Just over half of the Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who were made redundant from July to September 2015 were able to find employment by the end of the year.

Still, the unemployment rate last year remained unchanged at 2.9% for Singaporeans and slightly better at 2.8% when Permanent Residents are included.

The sharp downside in the local workforce growth was mainly due to a cyclical slowdown last year, according to the Ministry.

"Even as local employment growth is expected to slow down in the medium term, the moderation was intensified in 2015 due to cyclical weakness in certain sectors and the significant net decline of casual workers from the labour force," the MoM statement showed.

Export-oriented sectors such as manufacturing and wholesale trade saw slowdowns, along with real estate services amid the lacklustre property market. Employment growth in retail trade also slackened due to the slowdown in the increase of new retail space available and lower sales volumes, excluding motor vehicles.

In Singapore, job openings continued to outnumber job seekers last year at a ratio of 1.23, the report showed.

With workers in high demand due to the tight labour market, full-time employed Singaporeans saw their real median income, including employer CPF contributions, rise 7% over the year, sharply higher than the 1.4% rise in 2014.

For the year ahead, MOM said it expects redundancies to continue to rise in sectors facing weak external demand and that are undergoing restructuring, while domestic-oriented services sectors are likely to continue to need workers.

"MOM is closely monitoring the current economic and labour market situation, and is strengthening employment support to help displaced locals re-enter employment," it said.