Singapore

Layoffs more than double in Q2 as pandemic hits

The labour market is starting to feel the full force of the Covid-19 pandemic, with retrenchments and unemployment rising in the second quarter of the year.

Amid ongoing uncertainties, observers said the labour market is likely to remain weak for some time to come.

Retrenchments in the three months to end-June more than doubled to 8,130 compared with the first quarter, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said yesterday.

In all, a total of 11,350 people were laid off in the first half of the year, making it the worst showing since the global financial crisis of 2009.

The figure does not include the large-scale layoffs announced by Resorts World Sentosa in July and Singapore Airlines last week, which affected thousands of workers.

Locals - referring to Singaporeans and permanent residents - were less likely to be retrenched than foreigners, noted MOM. Locals still accounted for a majority of those laid off because they make up the bulk of the workforce.

Analysts expect unemployment to climb further as layoffs continue for the rest of the year.

"Retrenchments will likely continue in the third quarter but may not be as massive as in the second quarter when the circuit breaker measures were imposed," said Maybank Kim Eng senior economist Chua Hak Bin.

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said he expects the uncertain local and global outlook to weigh on the labour market.

MOM said that cost-saving measures adopted by companies and government support initiatives may have cushioned the impact on jobs.

SHORTER WORK WEEKS

The number of employees placed on shorter work weeks or temporary layoffs rose to an unprecedented high of 81,720 in the second quarter.

In the first half of the year, locals formed the bulk of the 42,190 employees on short work weeks, while foreigners formed the majority of the 43,720 on temporary layoffs.

Meanwhile, unemployment rose steadily over the last few months.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Singaporeans climbed to 4.3 per cent in July, up from 4 per cent in June and 3.5 per cent in March.

The rate for locals was 4.1 per cent in July, while the overall rate including foreigners was 3 per cent.

The latest figures were the highest since the global financial crisis in 2009.

Meanwhile, the economy shed a net 103,500 workers in the second quarter of this year, excluding foreign domestic workers.

This was the largest quarterly contraction on record, though lower than the preliminary estimate of 121,800.

The difference arises because the final report takes into account late responses from firms and any revisions they might make.

Total employment in Singapore contracted by 3.7 per cent, or 129,100, in the first half of the year. Foreigners accounted for more than half of this contraction.

Even amid the gloom, local employment held steady or edged up in sectors such as information and communications, financial and insurance services and health and social services.

But overall hiring demand continued to fall.

The ratio of job vacancies to unemployed people fell from 0.71 in March to 0.57 in June. This means there are fewer than six vacancies for every 10 unemployed people.

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