SINGAPORE - The difficult economic conditions in 2015 saw the highest number of workers laid off since the global financial crisis, according to the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) official labour market report for 2015.
A total of 15,580 workers were retrenched last year, up from 12,930 in 2014 and the highest number since 23,430 lost their jobs in 2009.
Layoffs in the services sector accounted for the majority (55 per cent) of redundancies in 2015, followed by manufacturing (33 per cent) and construction (11 per cent).
The higher number of job losses was accompanied by a decline in the rate of re-entry into employment, with only half the number of residents laid off in the third quarter of 2015 able to secure a job again by the end of the year. MOM said that both these trends reflected the weaker economic conditions in 2015.
Employment growth also slowed significantly in 2015 after experiencing exceptionally high growth in the two previous years due to sluggish economic conditions and tightened foreign manpower policy.
In total, employment grew by 32,300, or 0.9 per cent, in 2015, down from the growth of between 3 and 4 per cent recorded between 2011 and 2014 and the slowest rate since 2003 (-0.6 per cent).
Local employment growth was flat, with the number of jobs held by Singaporeans or Permanent Residents growing by just 700 over the year. Foreign employment growth also slowed to 31,600, or 2.3 per cent.
MOM said that the moderation in 2015 was a confluence of structural and cyclical factors. It pointed out that growth of the working-age local population is slowing due to the shrinking size of successive cohorts of younger locals entering the workforce.
However, the ministry added that the moderation was intensified last year due to cyclical weakness in certain sectors.
Despite the slower employment growth, unemployment rates remained low in 2015, averaging 1.9 per cent overall.
The unemployment rate for Singaporeans remained at the same level since 2013 at 2.9 per cent, while unemployment for Permanent Residents inched up slightly to 2.8 per cent.
As of December 2015, locals formed two-thirds of all persons in employment, with a total of 1,387,300 foreigners making up the remaining one-third.
Although the number of job vacancies has gone down, there were still more openings than job-seekers. In December 2015, there were 113 openings for every 100 job-seekers.
Looking ahead to 2016, MOM said that it expects labour demand to be modest, in line with Singapore's projected GDP growth of between one and three per cent.
"We expect redundancies to continue to rise in sectors facing weak external demand and that are undergoing restructuring," the ministry said.
It added that it is closely monitoring the current economic and labour market situation, and is strengthening employment support to help displaced locals re-enter employment.