Monday, April 30, 2012

Singapore's jobless rate rises to 2.1% in March

SINGAPORE: Fewer jobs were created in the first quarter of the year, but the Ministry of Manpower said the domestic job market remains "fairly strong".

An estimated 27,400 new jobs were created in the first quarter of 2012, compared to 37,600 the previous quarter, and 28,300 the same time last year.

Unemployment rose slightly, to 2.1 per cent from last December's two per cent.

UniSIM School of Business' Business Programme head Randolph Tan said it is the start of an inevitable slowdown, as Singapore passes the peak of its economic recovery.

"From this point onwards, I expect to see the employment situation decline but not significantly deteriorate," Associate Professor Tan said.

"One of the reasons why, is because of the fact that government policy, to a large extent, has been anticipatory in trying to deal with the potential decline in demand [for labour].

"So the reduction in the influx of foreign manpower to some extent, will help hold up the labour market."

Assoc Prof Tan said he expects unemployment to creep up to about 2.5 per cent by year-end.

Meanwhile, in a blog post, Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said higher unemployment is to be expected, as companies restructure or go offshore.

Workers will be affected, but he said his ministry will help them through the transition.

Singapore's latest employment data is set against a much bleaker global situation.

The International Labour Organisation has warned that the global employment situation is alarming, especially in Europe, where austerity measures are hurting job markets.

As the economy stays buoyant, some recruiters expect Singapore to reconsider its recent curbs on skilled foreign manpower.

Randstad regional director Karin Clarke said: "I think government is committed to restricting the number of foreign workers, particularly at the unskilled and semi-skilled layer.

"Those restrictions are here to stay. But I think there will be some easing when you look at professionals and the qualified level because Singapore's long-term growth depends on being able to bring in the skill sets to upskill the Singaporean workforce.

"Training and education come from overseas expertise, so if we continue to attract large R&D centres, then we need to be bringing those people in that can train the workforce.

"I also don't think Singapore probably has enough people to support all of that growth."

But for the unskilled foreign worker, observers said the restrictions are here to stay.

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