Retrenchments in Singapore more than doubled in the fourth quarter of last year from the preceding quarter, driven by business restructuring, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in its labour market report on Wednesday (Mar 15).
Total retrenchments for the year remained low compared to pre-pandemic years, the ministry said. Total employment also exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
There were 2,990 retrenchments in the fourth quarter, up from 1,300 in the preceding quarter.
A MOM spokesperson said 670 people in electronics manufacturing were laid off in the last quarter of 2022, while 450 workers in wholesale trade were retrenched.
In the information and communications sector, 370 people were laid off. That compares to 520 in the third quarter and 110 in the second quarter in the same sector.
In total, there were 6,440 retrenchments in 2022, the lowest since records began in 1998. There were 10,690 layoffs in 2019 before the pandemic began.
Resident unemployment and long-term unemployment rates in December 2022 remained low, said MOM.
“Right now, we are back into a steady state and we should expect retrenchments to hover around these levels,” said Mr Ang Boon Heng, director of MOM’s manpower research and statistics department.
The ministry said that the percentage of residents who found employment within six months of being retrenched was 73.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2022, the highest since the second quarter of 2015.
The majority of retrenched residents found employment in a different industry, Mr Ang told reporters.
“It encourages us because it shows the transferability of the skills of the retrenched residents to find new jobs in new sectors,” he said.
Looking ahead, global economic headwinds and slower growth may weigh on labour demand, although hiring sentiments in December remained positive, the ministry added.
“Notwithstanding the fact that we had a good run last year, our businesses and our workers have to be more prepared,” Dr Tan said.
“They have to constantly be vigilant, as is what the Government is doing. So this is the cautionary note that I would like to sound.”
MOM said employment growth is likely to ease from 2022’s increase and be uneven across sectors.
The growth outlook for outward-oriented sectors like manufacturing remains weak, said the ministry. However, aviation and tourism-related industries are expected to benefit from the recovery in air travel and inbound tourism, which may get a boost from China’s reopening.