Expect labour pains to last
Tough times are on the horizon for Singapore workers.
Official labour market figures released earlier this week show more are out of work for at least 25 weeks, a period economists use for calculating the long-term unemployment rate.
For the first time in seven years, the rate for September rose to 0.8 per cent this year, the highest since September 2009 amid the global financial crisis, when it was 0.9 per cent.
It is worrying because the longer workers are jobless, the harder it is to land a job as potential employers tend to perceive their knowledge and skills as not being up to date.
To aggravate the situation, the figures from the Manpower Ministry show the ratio of job openings to job seekers has fallen further, to 0.91, after accounting for seasonal variations.
The storm clouds are also getting more threatening for the economy.
Private-sector economists have cut their growth forecasts for this year to 1.4 per cent, according to a quarterly Monetary Authority of Singapore poll published a day after the labour statistics.
It is below the upper limit set by the Trade and Industry Ministry which last month had cut its growth forecast to between 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent.
This is a reduction from its earlier forecast of between 1 per cent and 2 per cent. The reduced rate is bad news for workers because there is a time lag before the labour market responds to economic performance.
Hopefully, companies will find other ways, like a shorter work week, to stay afloat. It would be preferred over retrenchment, especially during the festive season.
As for workers thinking of switching jobs, it would be prudent to think again, lower pay expectations, and be diligent in researching which are the industries and companies with growth prospects.
However, there are two promising sectors - healthcare and information technology.