Employment shrinks in Q3, axe falls mainly on foreigners

Employment shrinks in Q3, axe falls mainly on foreigners

The total number of people employed in Singapore fell in the third quarter of this year, mainly due to a decline in the number of work permit holders in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

As these foreign workers typically do not stay on without a job, the unemployment rate has remained stable at 2.1 per cent last month.

In all, employment shrank by 3,300 between June and September this year, pushing total employment down to 3,670,200, preliminary figures released by the Manpower Ministry yesterday showed.

This is just 0.8 per cent higher than a year ago and was the second time since the 2009 global financial crisis that employment contracted. The first time was in the first three months last year, when employment fell by 6,100.

Manufacturing continues to shed workers for the eighth quarter in a row. Likewise, the construction sector posted declines as it is seeing fewer private-sector projects.

In both cases, the main group affected by the slowdown are lower-skilled foreigners on work permit, said the ministry.

Unemployment among Singaporeans and permanent residents dipped to 2.9 per cent in September, from 3 per cent in June. Similarly for Singaporeans, it slipped to 3 per cent, from 3.1 per cent.

Fewer people were also laid off in the third quarter: 4,100 compared with 4,800 in the previous quarter.

But with "subdued global economic conditions and internal economic restructuring", more workers were affected than the 3,460 who lost their jobs in the third quarter a year ago, said the ministry.

On Tuesday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore cautioned that the economy is not expected to improve significantly next year.

The challenge is how to best help out-of-work Singaporeans find jobs quickly, said NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.

"(It's) not going to be easy because of new kinds of jobs and new skills required and new mindsets needed on the part of both employers and employees," he added.

joseow@sph.com.sg

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