Employment rose to pre-Covid levels after Singapore’s ‘circuit breaker’

RESIDENT employment levels bounced back to near pre-Covid levels in the third quarter after taking a big hit in June when the “circuit breaker” was at its height, according to findings of the Labour Force Singapore Advance Release 2020 (LFAR).

“Despite the pandemic’s impact on the economy, employment rate remained high (80.3 per cent) for residents aged 25 to 64, the bulk of whom are in their prime working age, and was close to the average in the last five years (80.5 per cent),” says the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a press statement.

But real median income dipped 0.3 per cent, a reversal of the 2.2 per cent rise in 2019. “Despite the moderation in 2020, real median income growth over the recent five years (2015 to 2020: 2.7 per cent per annum) remained close to that over the preceding five years (2010 to 2015: 3.1 per cent per annum),” MOM says.

The employment rate for women largely held up, while the rate for men eased by 0.9 per cent. The employment rate for residents aged 65 and above continued its sustained improvement, rising by 0.9 percentage point from 27.6 per cent in June 2019 to 28.5 per cent in June 2020, which MOM attributes to ongoing efforts to raise the employability of senior workers.

But the employment rate for youths aged 15 to 24 continued to fall, due to a longer stay in school. Many have taken up part-time work while continuing their study, often in hospitality-related sectors that were harder hit by the pandemic. “The two effects combined caused the employment rate decline of 3.0 percentage points for this age group to the sharpest among all age groups,” MOM says.

The resident unemployment rate for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) increased 0.6 per cent, lower than the increase for non-PMETs (up 1.7 percentage points from June 2019 to June 2020) as “industries more severely impacted by Covid-19 have a higher concentration of non-PMETs”.

Industries harder hit also had a high concentration of lower-income earners, including self-employed whose earnings were also reduced. This has led to a 4.5 per cent fall of real income for full-timers at the 20th percentile. But when the various government payouts – such as Workfare Income Supplement and Workfare Special Payment for lower income earners – are included, the 20th percentile income level in 2020 is similar to the level in 2019.