Total employment in Singapore recovered to slightly above pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter of the year, according to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Manpower earlier this week. As of September, slightly under 3.6 million people were employed, and the total unemployment rate was 2.1%, well down from the peak of 4.1% in 2020.
The ministry disclosed that 75,900 jobs were added from July to September, most of them in the manufacturing and construction sectors and employing foreign workers (71,100). Both these sectors had taken a significant hit during the pandemic, when borders closed and workers returned to their home countries, and were still short of manpower at this time last year.
In comparison, 4,800 jobs were filled by locals, mainly in the financial services, professional services, and information & communications sectors. However, this was partly offset by a spike in retrenchments in the tech sector.
Singapore, which hosts the headquarters of quite a few large regional tech companies including Shopee and its parent company Sea, foodpanda, and Grab (one of the few to have avoided layoffs so far) saw a 400% increase in layoffs from tech firms. While this amounted to 460 jobs lost in absolute numbers, it also accounted for 40% of the total jobs lost in Q3.
Commenting on the numbers in a Facebook post, Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng warned that even Singapore's tight labour market will see more challenges ahead due to uncertain geopolitical conditions and rising global inflation.
"I encourage employers and workers to make full use of Government programmes to accelerate the pace of transformation to remain competitive and resilient," he wrote, referring to the various business transformation, digitalisation, and upskilling initiatives organised and/or subsidised by the government.