Sunday 30 November 2014

Singapore's employment rate at all-time high: MOM

Wages also improved, with low-income earners now taking home 12 per cent more compared to five years ago. Residents in full-time jobs also earned more - their median monthly income grew by 0.4 per cent to S$3,770.
By Eileen Poh, Channel NewsAsia, 28 Nov 2014

A Manpower Ministry report released on Friday (Nov 28) showed Singapore's employment rate rose to an all-time high of 79.7 per cent this year - up slightly from the 79 per cent in 2013.

The labour market saw an increase in women and older workers. Employees, especially low-wage workers, also drew higher salaries. More Singaporeans aged between 25 and 64 were employed this year, according to data from a survey conducted in June.

The employment rate for women aged between 25 and 64 also hit a record, at 76 per cent - compared to 74.3 per cent in the previous year.

More older workers were also hired, increasing from 65 per cent in 2013 to 66.3 per cent this year.

Ms Ho Geok Choo, CEO of Human Capital Singapore, said: "We have more creative ways of engaging the senior workforce. For instance, while in the past we often see the elderly only ending up cleaning tables and cleaning floors, today we are seeing them switching to other service-related types of jobs."

“Increasingly, you see them at the service counters of retail outlets, or even at the food and beverage outlets, you will see many of them doing cashiering and waitering. So I think the jobs have become more meaningful as a whole,” she added.

Another way to develop gainful employment for the elderly is getting younger seniors to help their older counterparts.

Ms Ho said: "We know Singapore is ageing and we will be faced with quite a big cohort of senior citizens. One way is to consider using the younger spectrum of the seniors to help the older spectrum.

"So what we can do here is in the wellness industry - where we can go into some kind of paramedical services, not so much what the nurses are doing, but more of helping the seniors to stay active."

This can be the provision of services such as companionship, reading or accompanying older seniors for social recreational activities, she added.


Wages also improved, with the most prominent increase among low-wage workers.

Compared to five years ago, low-income earners now take home 12 per cent more, with a median monthly salary of S$1,972.

Overall, residents in full-time jobs also earned more. The median monthly income grew by 0.4 per cent to S$3,770.

The Manpower Ministry said this follows "exceptionally high increases" of 4 per cent in 2013. This was partly pulled up by the initial effect of the Wage Credit Scheme launched last year. Under the scheme, the Government co-funds the wage increases given to Singaporean employees.

As the subsidies wear off next year, human resource experts said employees will have to moderate their expectations. But they said companies should still offer competitive wages to retain talent.

Ms Femke Hellemons, country manager at Adecco Singapore, said: "So looking forward, salaries probably will keep increasing, probably at a modest pace as well. But of course, there will be differences within the labour market because those companies that know that they need the best talent and to retain the best talent, will keep on offering competitive packages."

Ms Ho added: "Once the support is taken off, employers may have to moderate that quantum of annual increment. But having said that, I would say that we must continue to pay those who perform well good increments so that we are able to better retain these talents.

"For the average performers, I think they have to understand that the annual increment quantum will have to be moderated.”

Looking ahead, analysts expect sectors such as biosciences, pharmaceuticals, construction, financial services and IT to remain strong.

Income growth at slowest pace since 2009
Median earnings rose just 0.4%; low-income group saw higher pay rise
By Aaron Low Deputy News Editor And Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

INCOME growth is now at its slowest pace since the recession, with poor productivity growth taking its toll on wages.

The labour market is also increasingly stretched, with unemployment hovering near record lows while participation rates of workers soared to fresh highs, the latest Singapore Workforce report showed yesterday.

The median income, including employer Central Provident Fund contributions, rose 1.8 per cent to $3,770 in June this year, only marginally higher than the $3,705 level last year - the slowest pace since 2009.

This means that the average Singaporean's income rose just 0.4 per cent, after adjusting for inflation.

"It's disappointing," said DBS economist Irvin Seah, noting that real income growth last year was 4 per cent.

"Should the trend continue, it will raise questions over whether the policies made so far to boost productivity, and real median incomes, are working."

Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Chua Hak Bin said that lagging productivity is finally hurting wage growth.

"There is a limit to how much more wage growth can be squeezed from tightening the tap on foreign worker flow.

"If productivity does not rise, wages are not likely to go up either," he said.

But Barclays Capital economist Leong Wai Ho was not worried by the numbers, arguing that the dip in wage growth was probably cyclical in nature.

Pointing to the low seasonally adjusted resident unemployment rate, which stood at 2.8 per cent in June, he said the job market remained tight. Instead, he blamed the slowdown in growth and the property sector as the main reasons for median incomes stagnating.

"There are a lot of professionals in the sector, such as lawyers and bankers," he said.

"When property slowed down, companies were not able to pay good raises since the profit margins were constrained at the top."

Efforts to improve the re-employment of older workers have also paid off, with those aged 55 to 64 recording a 68.4 per cent participation rate - the proportion of people who are active in the job market.

There was also good news for workers at the bottom of the pay ladder.

Their wages rose faster than the median level over the past five years, helped by targeted government measures such as the Workfare Income Supplement and training.

Wages in that category rose about 2.3 per cent a year over the past five years, after accounting for inflation.

This was higher than the 1.9 per cent pace for overall real median incomes in the same period.

Unemployment rates highest among younger workers
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

WHILE much focus has been on older workers, it is younger workers who have the highest rates of unemployment.

Unemployment for residents in their late 20s stood at 5.8 per cent this year, the highest since 2009. For those under 24, the rate was 8.8 per cent, according to preliminary figures released by the Manpower Ministry yesterday.

But this is not worrying, said experts, who pointed to the high number of vacancies available should young people need a job.

"There are more than 58,000 jobs on the Jobs Bank, so it shouldn't be a concern," said Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy economist Hui Weng Tat.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan said the tight labour market means young people should be able to get a job quite easily if they wanted to. "They tend to be more selective and are not willing to compromise on their interests or self-actualisation."

For example, he said, they may want to work only for a company that is environmentally friendly, or one that offers a more creative environment.

They will also not settle for a pay of $2,500 if they believe they can command $3,000.

"They're not in dire financial situations, so the way they look for jobs is different from previous generations," Mr Tan said.

The overall seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Singapore residents was 2.8 per cent in June, inching down from 2.9 per cent a year earlier.

The accommodation and food service industry faced an unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent, which was more than double the 2.5 per cent of the real estate service and construction industries.

More people decided not to look for a job as they did not think they would find a suitable one. A total of 9,900 residents were discouraged from seeking work this year, up from 8,600 last year and 9,600 in 2012.

Hiring of women, older workers hits high amid labour crunch
Govt policies, external factors helped raise labour force participation rate, say analysts
By Xue Jianyue, TODAY, 29 Nov 2014

Efforts over the past decade to persuade more women and older workers to rejoin the workforce appear to be paying off, with the employment rates of older workers and women rising to new highs amid the manpower crunch and low unemployment.

The resident labour force participation rate for women and older workers aged 55 to 69 has jumped significantly since 2004, on the back of Government measures such as flexible work arrangements and extension of the reemployment age from 62 to 65 in 2012.

Helped by better initiatives to improve work-life integration, the participation rate for women rose from 51.3 per cent to 58.6 per cent this year. For workers aged 55 to 64, the participation rate rose from 49.5 per cent to 68.4 per cent over the same period, an increase the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) credited to tripartite efforts with boost the employability of older workers in its Singapore Workforce report released yesterday.

Significantly, the resident labour force participation rate of even older residents (65 to 69 years old) more than doubled over the past decade, from 18.9 per cent in 2004 to 41.2 per cent this year.

Overall, the employment rate of residents aged 25 to 64 reached a new high of 79.7 per cent this year, up from 79 per cent last year and 72.3 per cent a decade ago, said the ministry.

Analysts TODAY spoke to said labour force participation had been pushed up by a mix of government efforts and external factors.

The higher employers’ Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution for older workers and the raising of the re-employment age from 62 to 65 have encouraged older workers to return to the workforce, said UOB economist Francis Tan. Women have also been helped by the increased number of childcare centres in younger neighbourhoods, he added.

The rise of flexible work arrangements — helped by government incentives — has also benefited women and older workers, said CIMB economist Song Seng Wun.

The analysts, however, also pointed to external factors, such as the higher cost of living, longevity and changing family structures.

“Children are not having grandchildren as early, so (women) could be working longer or rejoining the labour force because they have much smaller family units and fewer grandchildren to look after,” said Mr Song.

The mindsets of older residents are also shifting and those who have rejoined the labour force successfully may encourage friends of a similar age group to do so as well, he added.

While some have lamented the need for Singaporeans to work in their old age, Mr Tan pointed out that the 65-year-old mark is the “new 50”.

With rising life expectancy and the current low interest rates offered by banks, many older workers have to continue to work beyond retirement to support themselves. Older workers also need to address the rising cost of living, said economists.

Both Mr Tan and Mr Song believe current participation rates of older workers will continue to increase. Mr Tan, however, said there is a limit to how much the rate can increase for older workers, given the medical problems that come with ageing.

Member of Parliament (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) Zainuddin Nordin said, moving forward, work is needed to change the mindset of employers and encourage them to accept older workers into their fold. The fact that more elderly are working, he added, is a positive sign that people are beginning to accept such a new mindset.

MP (Nee Soon GRC) Patrick Tay said efforts to encourage women to return to work and drive re-employment are paying off. “We should continue our momentum to help those who are keen and want to work to have a working environment that facilitates that. This can be done with companies embracing flexible work arrangements and building age-friendly workplaces.”

Layoffs up, but job market remains tight
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 Dec 2014

SLOW and steady. That was the picture painted of the labour market as it continued to adapt to the painful process of economic restructuring.

The unemployment rate remained unchanged, while job layoffs rose slightly, even as vacancies shrank at a marginally slower pace, the latest labour market report by the Manpower Ministry showed yesterday.

Unemployment stood at 2 per cent, a figure that has remained constant since March.

Some 3,500 workers lost their jobs between July and September this year, up from 2,410 in the preceding three months.

Older workers, who typically hold lower qualifications, bore the brunt of unemployment.

Among the 52,700 unemployed residents in September, 24,400, or 46 per cent, were those aged 40 and above.

Job openings stood at 60,700 in the third quarter, down from the 64,600 the three months before, after four consecutive quarters of increase.

While the tight labour market may mean good news for job seekers, assistant economics professor Walter Theseira of Nanyang Technological University warned that this could hurt companies in the longer run.

"While demand for resident labour has gone up because of foreign labour tightening, some firms will be unable to adapt and may exit, or may reduce the scale of their operations here."

But there was a bright spot. Powered by the increasingly dominant services sector, employment grew by 33,400 in the third quarter, up from 27,700 in the preceding three months.

Of the jobs created, services contributed 29,400.

There were also more job openings than takers. There were 1.42 vacancies for every unemployed person in September - up from 1.36 in June.

This is a sign that the labour market remains very tight, said UOB economist Francis Tan.

Experts expect the current market conditions to hold, unless a shock to the system occurs.

"Due to the year-end festivities, retail and F&B business are going to face challenges in recruiting permanent and temporary staff," said Mr Femke Hellemons, country manager of recruitment firm Adecco Singapore.

Mr Tan warned that in the long run, workers doing manual jobs are most at risk: "They are most vulnerable to long-term unemployment if they cannot keep up with the productivity push."

Singapore Workforce, 2014
Employment Rate Rose to New High, Sustained Rise in Incomes
Labour Market, Third Quarter 2014 -Unemployment Remained Low and Rate of Re-Entry Into Employment Improved
Clearing the air on key manpower statistics

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