Singapore experiences sharpest fall in employment in more than two decades

Total employment in Singapore, excluding foreign domestic workers, contracted by 166,600 in 2020, the largest decline since public records started in 1991.

Releasing the Labour Market Report 2020, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) also reported that the number of employed non-residents fell by 181,500 last year. Among Singaporeans and permanent residents, employment grew by 14,900, and rebounded to “slightly above pre-COVID levels” as a result of improvements in the second half of the year.

Josephine Teo, Singapore’s Manpower Minister, added that unemployment rates have fallen since November and have continued to fall in December and January this year. She cautioned that borders are still not reopening significantly and will continue to weigh on an externally connected economy like Singapore’s.

Resident employment grew in some industries, including public administration and education, health and social services, as well as finance and insurance services.

Non-resident employment fell in all sectors, with the bulk in construction and manufacturing. The decline was mainly driven by holders of work permits and other work passes, said MOM, with a decrease of 138,800. This was followed by a fall of 26,000 S pass holders and 16,700 employment pass holders.

Overall unemployment rate rose from 2.3 per cent in 2019 to 3 per cent in 2020. Resident unemployment also grew from 3.1 per cent in 2019 to 4.1 per cent in 2020, while citizen unemployment went up from 3.3 per cent in 2019 to 4.2 per cent in 2020.