Unemployment could rise further in Singapore: Manpower Minister

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say has cautioned that unemployment in Singapore could rise further as the country needs more time and efforts to meet the current economic challenges it is facing. The Minister addressed the citizens during the May Day message on Friday.

He said, “The transition this time is less cyclical, but more structural. Some sectors are still under stress and unemployment could rise further.”

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say. Photo courtesy: alvinology.com

He noted, “While Singapore has successfully emerged from previous spells of economic uncertainty, such as during the global financial crisis in 2009, this time, it is different. Unlike previous recoveries, more time and effort is needed to get through this transition completely.”

Stressing for a comprehensive strategy to come face economic challenges, Lim said, “This would call for better and faster adoption of technology, quicker innovation and higher productivity, so that Singapore can compete globally. Enterprises and workers able to transform faster and cope with workplace disruptions will emerge stronger in the future economy.”

The Minister observation came amid rising retrenchment and resident unemployment rates, as well as slower growth in gross domestic product (GDP).

It is a matter of concern that Singapore's economic growth has slowed to about 2 per cent in the past two years, down from 4.5 per cent previously. Retrenchment and resident unemployment rate has risen to 3 per cent last year after holding steady at about 2.8 per cent since 2012.

However, the Minister was confident that Singapore will emerge economically stronger, as it has always done in the past.

Government leaders and experts have pointed out on previous occasions that Singapore is not in a crisis. But there is no quick fix either for the structural challenges, from slow productivity growth to the skills gap in the labour force.

Dr Robert Yap, president of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), in a separate May Day Message stressed the importance of continual improvement and lifelong learning amid the shrinking workforce and slow productivity gains.

He exhorted that employers and unions must work together with mutual trust, good communication, and ability to respond quickly to growth opportunities and challenges.