Figures released this week by Singapore's Ministry of Manpower show some recovery in the city-state's labour market during 1H 2021 Singapore. Vacancies reached 92,100 in June this year, partially due to strict border restrictions that have left companies unable to access migrant talent, and at present, the ratio of job openings to unemployed persons has risen to above 1 for the first time since March 2019.
However, the outlook was affected by the extended lockdown in the second quarter. The ministry's statistics show that retrenchments rose slightly in the second quarter, with the total retrenchment rate for 1H currently recorded at 2.3 retrenchments for every 1,000 workers. The F&B sector, which had previously provided temporary or part time jobs during the first quarter, accounted for a majority of lay-offs and retrenchments - this attributable to many companies having to temporarily or permanently close during the lockdown.
An uneven recovery
Though the labour market is recovering gradually, employment remains highly segmented by sector. The demand for manpower is high in certain industries including banking and finance, one of Singapore's mainstays; construction and manufacturing, which has been supported over the years by continued infrastructure development; health and social services, which boomed in the wake of the pandemic; and information technology, which is a growth sector in much of the world.
In comparison, tourism, aviation, and entertainment and arts related sectors are still facing the brunt of the pandemic. Initially the worst hit in terms of employment, they were unable to recover when Singapore went into a second lockdown this year and remain in decline.
Notably, the vacancies in some of these sectors arise simply because they are unpopular among the resident workforce. For example, Aubeck Kam, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Manpower, highlighted construction as an example of a sector that locals traditionally do not want to work in.
According to the ministry, the outlook is expected to improve over the second half of 2021, with border restrictions - and the entry of foreign labour - anticipated to gradually increase as Singapore's vaccination drive moves forward. However, the improvement will be uneven across the economy. Harder-hit industries such as travel and tourism, food and beverages, aviation, etc are expected to grow and generate jobs at a comparatively slower rate.