Slight uptick in unemployment in Q4, but Singapore's labour market improved in 2018

Total employment and local employment in Singapore grew in 2018, while the annual average unemployment rates were lower than a year ago. — TODAY pic
Total employment and local employment in grew in 2018, while the annual average unemployment rates were lower than a year ago. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Feb 2 — Although labour trends in the final quarter of last year were mixed, with a slight rise in unemployment rates from the previous quarter and the same period a year ago, the labour market improved on the whole last year.

Total employment and local employment grew, while the annual average unemployment rates were lower than a year ago. There were also significantly fewer retrenchments, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Thursday as it released its Labour Market Advance Release 2018 report.

Here are the key figures for employment, unemployment, retrenchments and income growth.


Total employment in Singapore grew by 39,300 in 2018, with growth among residents standing at 28,400 (more than double that of foreigners, excluding foreign domestic workers).  

Total employment increased by 15,600 in the fourth quarter of 2018, buoyed by hiring over the year-end holidays and festive season. However, the figure was slightly lower than the preceding quarter’s total employment increase of 16,700.


While the average unemployment rates for 2018 were lower than 2017, the overall unemployment rate increased from 2.1 per cent to 2.2 per cent, between September and December 2018. This signals a possible softening of the labour market.

In December 2018, an estimated 69,800 residents were unemployed, an increase from 66,000 in September 2018. For the first time in the year, the rates in December were also higher than a year ago.


With the economy continuing to expand last year, retrenchments declined across the construction, manufacturing and services sectors. Total layoffs last year stood at 11,020, lower than the 14,720 in 2017.

The number of retrenchments in the fourth quarter was 2,800, similar to the 2,860 seen in the third quarter.

Income growth

The real median income of full-time employed Singaporeans increased by 3.6 per cent per annum from 2013 to 2018, higher than the per-annum growth of 1.7 per cent in the five-year period before that.

Real income at the 20th per centile (for lower-income workers) grew 4.3 per cent per annum from 2013 to 2018, faster than those at the median (3.6 per cent per annum).

Going forward, the MOM said that local workforce growth would remain modest due to an ageing population and low birth rates.

“As economic growth moderates, workers and businesses need to remain agile and responsive to economic restructuring and the evolving employment landscape,” it said.

In a Facebook post, National Trades Union Congress’ assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said: “The message of pre-emptive and pro-active training and skilling is clear and present and should be at the forefront of every company and workers’ agenda and focus.”

He added that the tripartite partners, namely the Government, unions and employers, as well as industry stakeholders will continue to build close partnerships to support Singaporeans to take up good jobs and careers through the Adapt and Grow Programmes. 

The Labour Movement will also press on with efforts to ensure workers remain ready for , relevant with new skills and resilient to new ways of working. — TODAY

Source: The Malay Mail Online

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