S'poreans 'feeling confident over jobs, personal finances'

CONSUMERS here are feeling good about their jobs and personal finances for the first time in three years, according to a new survey by global information company Nielsen.

Singapore logged 103 points on the Global Consumer Confidence Index in the third quarter, an increase of five percentage points over the same time last year. It had not crossed the 100-point threshold, indicating optimism, since the third quarter of 2011.

Sixty-one per cent of Singaporean respondents felt their future job prospects were positive, an increase of eight percentage points over the second quarter of the year, and 59 per cent rated their personal finances for the coming 12 months as good or excellent, four percentage points more than in the second quarter.

The latest Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions polled more than 30,000 online consumers from 60 countries, including 515 Singaporeans, from August to September.

CIMB regional economist Song Seng Wun said the greater confidence could be due to a strong labour market, low unemployment rates and mild inflation, even though economic growth this year has been lacklustre. Singapore's economy grew 2.4 per cent in the third quarter, the same pace of growth as in the previous quarter.

"From the standpoint of workers, they are reasonably assured of job prospects, which gives them confidence for modest wage increases down the road, and, thus, confidence to spend," he said.

Mr Song said those who lose jobs due to restructuring are absorbed back into the market fairly quickly. Singapore's jobless rate is 1.9 per cent, with 3,400 workers losing jobs in the third quarter.

The survey also found Singaporeans are most inclined to spend spare cash on holidays. Compared with the 36 per cent global average, 51 per cent of Singaporeans polled said they would spend on trips after meeting essential living expenses, a rise of eight percentage points from the last quarter.

In a sign that more are seeking the good life, 31 per cent said they would buy new clothes with their spare cash, up by three percentage points from the last quarter.

Three in 10 said they would spend their extra money by paying off debts, a 22 per cent increase over the last quarter.

But even though they are willing to spend, Singaporeans remain focused on saving, with two in three stashing their spare cash.

Events coordinator Guo Yi Ting, 24, saves 20 per cent of her monthly pay, even while spending on clothes, food and the occasional trip. "I always make sure my expenditure would not result in my savings taking a hit," she said.

Mr Vishal Bali, Nielsen managing director of consumer insights in South-east Asia, North Asia and the Pacific, said that while consumers in the region are known for prioritising saving over spending and, thus, have careful spending patterns, "rising disposable income is driving the desire to seek out lifestyle upgrades such as vacations and buying new clothes".


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