Singapore residents Employment hit record high in 2013

Singapore's tight labour market has seen more Singaporeans aged between 25 and 64 being employed in 2013.


The Singapore Workforce Report said 79 per cent of Singaporeans in that age group are currently employed, slightly more than 78.8 per cent in 2012 and 71.8 per cent in 2003.


Lower income workers or those in the 20th percentile also saw improvements in their wages.

Two groups of workers contributed to an improved employment situation -- women and older residents joining the labour force.


Women in the workforce went up from 50.9 per cent in 2003 to 58.1 per cent in 2013. 57-year-old Anne Marie Ang returned to work in 2009 after a five-year break. Her employer, a law firm, offers flexi-work arrangements.


She said: "If I need to take time off once a week, (my supervisor) allows me to do that because sometimes I do volunteer work, so in that sense he is very flexible with me, as long as I deliver my work."


More workers aged 55 to 64 have also been hired, rising from 64 per cent in 2012 to reach 65 per cent this year.


Cheng Tim Jin, partner at TJ Cheng Law Corporation, said: "WDA has given us S$20,000 for us to have all those programmes in place to hire senior citizens. "So with that money we can have a lot of programmes, like sending the senior colleagues for classes, sometimes buying some insurance for them."


Associate Professor Shandre Thangavelu, economist at the National University of Singapore, said: "The tightening of foreign manpower has actually led to more activity in the labour market and this has been reflected by the female participation rate and the older workers."


Stephen Lee, president of the Singapore National Employers Federation, explained: “The government has already announced the long-term objectives on foreign workers. "Employers are now looking inward and see what ways there are to improve internally and try to do more with the existing workforce, mostly productivity-driven type of programmes."


Dr Amy Khor, senior minister of state for manpower, said: "Government measures as well as flexible workplace arrangements are helping to make it more attractive for employers to hire older workers, as well as back-to-work women. "Our tight foreign manpower policy is also helping to get more employers to look towards this group of workers to tap their potential to meet their manpower needs.” 

The report said real income growth has strengthened in 2013 as inflation eased. The preliminary real median income growth rate for 2013 was 3.9 per cent, up from 2.5 per cent in 2012.


The Singapore Workforce Report also touches on the performance of vulnerable workers or low-wage workers. It said their income levels went up by nearly 27 per cent between 2008 and 2013. Dr Khor emphasized that the government is committed to inclusive growth for all Singaporeans. She said: “One of our key priorities is to help uplift the wages of our lower-income workers and we have done several things, put in place several measures to help lower-income workers. "We have also focused our attention on some sectors which practices cheap sourcing.”


For the longer term, economic watchers emphasized a key focus area for the tripartite partners is improving productivity levels for the country to remain competitive.


30th November 2013