Foreign workers returning after borders reopen

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Total employment in Singapore grows, with foreign workers returning after borders reopen

Total employment in the second quarter of 2022 rose, mainly due to an increase in foreign workers, as Singapore relaxed border restrictions from April, according to advance estimates from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Friday (Jul 29).

MOM said that more residents found employment, while non-resident employment rebounded strongly from April to June.

Unemployment rates remained at pre-COVID levels, and the number of retrenchments also stayed low.

Total employment, excluding migrant domestic workers, expanded by 64,400 or 1.9 per cent in the second quarter. This is at a faster pace compared to the previous quarter (42,000 or 1.2 per cent).

The increase was largely due to hiring of foreign workers in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

“With the significant relaxation of border controls since April this year, employers in such sectors have been hiring to backfill positions and meet rising demand,” said MOM in a release on Friday.

At the same time, more residents have found employment, especially in sectors like information and communications, professional services, and financial services, preliminary data shows.


Unemployment rates have been trending downwards since peaking in October 2020, and held steady after reaching pre-COVID levels in February.

In June 2022, the overall unemployment rate was 2.1 per cent. It was at 2.9 per cent for residents, and 3.1 per cent for citizens.

The number of retrenchments remained low, at 1,000 in the second quarter of this year.

As with recent quarters, business reorganisation or restructuring remained the top reason for layoffs, said MOM.

The ministry said it expects non-resident employment to continue growing at a “robust pace” as it catches up to its pre-COVID level. Based on latest estimates, it remains below 2019 levels by about 10 per cent.

“Resident employment, which is expected to be about 4 per cent above 2019 levels, will likely see subdued growth given the low resident unemployment rate,” said the ministry.

MOM also warned that global headwinds, including strong inflationary pressures, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, and a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in major economies such as China, may dampen demand.

The Labour Market Report 2Q 2022, due for release in mid-September, will provide more details on the employment situation in Singapore.


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