The Singapore job market is looking up, but not for the better qualified due to a mismatch of skills and jobs. This dampens an otherwise cheery report by the Ministry of Manpower of its third-quarter labour market survey released yesterday.
The Singapore labour market continues to tighten - and this was underscored in September by a jump in job openings and fewer takers. After a 5.1 per cent decline in June, seasonally adjusted job vacancies rose 5.9 per cent over the quarter to 55,000 in September.
"With more openings and fewer job seekers, the seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons rose to 1.41 in September, following a decline from 1.21 in March to 1.12 in June," the report said.
It was the highest job openings to jobless ratio since 2007.
Led by the services sector (18,500), overall job gains (33,100) in the July-September quarter turned out to be higher than earlier estimated (28,100), but still lower than the previous quarter (33,700).
As reported earlier, the jobless rate dropped from a seasonally adjusted 2.1 per cent in June to 1.8 per cent in September.
Layoffs eased from 3,080 workers in Q2 to 2,710 in Q3, as the drop in manufacturing (from 1,630 to 1,250) more than offset the increase in services (from 1,190 to 1,200).
In an interview with The Business Times and Channel News Asia yesterday, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said the report is "encouraging" and the bright picture it paints of the labour market largely reflects the fact that the economy is "doing pretty well".
But not everything in it is "rosy", he pointed out.
Because of the economic restructuring, Mr Tan indicated that much of Singapore's unemployment is structural, a mismatch of skills and jobs. And this has hit the better qualified - the professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) - harder than others.
So while the non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate in September dropped for Singaporeans and permanent residents with secondary or lower education, it rose for those with degrees and post-secondary qualifications.
Professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) made up nearly two-thirds of the residents retrenched in Q3. Production and related workers accounted for 27 per cent and clerical, sales & service workers 9.3 per cent.
The better qualified also tended to stay unemployed longer and took longer to find re-employment, according to the report.
They pushed up the long-term jobless rate - that is, out of job for at least 25 weeks - of residents in Q3 to 0.6 per cent, up from 0.4 per cent a year ago.
Retrenched PMEs' rate of re-entry into employment - finding jobs within six months - dipped from 47 per cent in June to 46 per cent in September, though the rate for all workers inched up from 51 to 52 per cent.
"Not all jobs created are at the upper-end," Mr Tan said. With PMEs making up a larger share of the workforce, he said there's now a bigger challenge of churning out jobs for them.
The number generated is still small. Of the 61,900 non-seasonally adjusted vacancies available in September, 61 per cent were for non-PMETs and only 39 per cent were for PMETs.