S'pore enjoys record employment, higher wages
Tue, Nov 27, 2007
The Straits Times

FUELLED by the robust economy and abundant job opportunities, Singapore's employment rate continues to rise to a new high, driven mainly by more women and older people joining the workforce.

The continued tightening of the labour market this year has also led to significant gains in income and a reduction in the number and share of low wage workers.

As at June, 62.6 per cent of the resident population aged 15 and over over were employed, the highest since the start of the data series in 1991.

In particular, the employment rate for those aged 25 to 64 edged up to a new record of 76.5 per cent - from 75.5 per cent a year ago.

Supported by efforts to improve employability of older workers, the employment rate of older residents aged 55 to 64 rose by 2.5 percentage points against last June's 56.2 per cent.

These are the key findings from the 'Singapore Workforce, 2007' report released on Tuesday by the Ministry of Manpower's Research and Statistics Department, which carried out the comprehensive Labour Force Survey conducted in the middle of this year.

'The booming economy has enabled a record proportion of the resident population to secure employment, with notable gains achieved by women and older persons,' said the report.

'The continued tightening of the labour market this year has also led to significant gains in income and a reduction in the number and share of low wage workers.'

But the survey found that following rapid gains in the past two years and a record employment rate among residents this year, the growth in resident labour force eased this year, due to a smaller pool of remaining residents to bring into work.

The survey showed that the growth in resident labour force over the year eased to 2 per cent in 2007, which is close to the trend growth since 1991. This followed rapid gains averaging 4.2 per cent per annum in the preceding two years when more people had entered the labour force, encouraged by the economic upturn.

As at June, there were 1,918,100 residents in the labour force comprising 1,100,100 males and 818,100 females.

Most of the new jobs taken up by residents were in occupations paying more than the median income. Nine out of ten jobs gained by residents from 1997 to 2007 went to Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMET), mostly in the services sector.

Over the past three years, the gains were more spread out across the occupational groups, with more residents employed in sales and services jobs than before.

But the majority (71 per cent) of the jobs created for residents from 2004 to 2007 still went to PMETs. As a result, PMETs now form 49 per cent of the resident workforce, up from 40 per cent a decade ago, while the share of production and related workers correspondingly declined from 31 per cent to 26 per cent and clerical, sales & service workers from 29 per cent to 25 per cent.

Amid the tight labour market, the median monthly income for full-time employed residents rose over the year by 7.7 per cent to $2,330 in June 2007, compared to gains of 1.6 per cent annually from 2004 to 2006 and 1.2 per cent per annum from 1998 to 2004.

Nevertheless, it is still lower than the annual gains averaging 9.5 per cent during 1996 to 1998. After adjusting for inflation, the median income grew over the year by 6.3 per cent in 2007.

Fewer low-wage workers
As incomes rose, the number of low-wage workers in full-time employment with monthly income at or below $1,200 dropped by 6.6 per cent from 363,700 in 2006 to 339,500 in 2007. They form 20 per cent of the full time-employed residents in 2007, after remaining constant at 22 per cent from 2003 to 2006.

Reflecting a growing trend towards greater flexibility in working arrangements, the pool of resident employees engaged on a term contract basis expanded by 6.8 per cent over the year to 183,700, with those on short term contracts of less than a year growing by as much as 14 per cent.

Against the larger base, the pool of employees on permanent appointment grew by only 2 per cent, according to the survey.

Nevertheless, the bulk (88 per cent) of employees was still on permanent appointments, with contract employees forming the remaining 12 per cent.

Greater labour market flexibility was also reflected in the growing number of part-timers which more than doubled over the decade from 51,200 to 114,700, increasing their share of employment from 3.4 per cent in 1997 to 6.2 per cent in 2007, about the same as a year ago - at 6.3 per cent.

28 per cent of workforce without secondary education
The survey noted that despite continuing improvement in the education profile of the workforce, there remain a sizeable pool of 531,300 residents without secondary qualifications, forming 28 per cent of the resident labour force (down from 637,200 - or 46 per cent - in 1991).

The workforce is also rapidly aging with slightly over half of the economically active residents aged 40 years or older, including 25 per cent aged at least 50 years, up from 33 per cent and 13 per cent respectively in 1991.

"While the strong labour market performance in 2007 has lifted prospects even for the older and less educated, these workers nevertheless remain more vulnerable to losing their jobs and less likely to be re-employed during a downturn. The challenge remains in enhancing their long term employability amid a volatile economic environment," said the ministry.

The 'Singapore Workforce, 2007' report profiles the resident workforce in Singapore in terms of their demographic and economic characteristics, focusing on the changes over time. More comprehensive data will be released in the annual labour force publication by end of January.

The report is available online on the Ministry of Manpower's website at http://www.mom.gov.sg/mrsd/publication.


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