The labour market in Singapore doesn't look good this year. In its 2021 labour market report released on 14 March, the Ministry of Manpower warned that the Russia-Ukraine war has significantly increased downside risks, particularly in the rising cost of energy which is likely to affect business competitiveness and thereby employment.
2021 showed some recovery in employment, but the figures are not entirely optimistic. Across that year, unemployment dropped to pre-pandemic levels and resident employment increased by 71,300, a good sign that local workers were able to re-enter the workforce. But non-resident employment dropped by 30,000 as ongoing COVID outbreaks worldwide kept border restrictions tight for much of the year. And taken as a whole, the net employment gain of 41,300 is barely 25% of the 166,600 jobs lost in 2020 - indicating that some jobs, and some workers, simply haven't come back.
Over 90% of the drop in non-resident employment came from high and mid-level skilled workers, or PMETs, and following the recent Budget announcement that the qualifying salary would be raised for these workers to seek employment in Singapore, it's uncertain how much the decline will reverse.
Industries that are expected to hire this year include the information and communications and financial services sectors, which also contributed noticeably to last year's increase in employment. The ministry also projects that consumer services sectors, including F&B and retail, will recover as COVID restrictions are eased. However, tourism and aviation, which saw a decline last year, are not expected to recover much.
On the bright side, retrenchments have fallen and are less likely to stick, with 66% of retrenched workers re-entering the workforce last year.