Singapore Labour Market Review – 2014 to Q2 2015

As vibrant and alive as Singapore’s labour market has been for the past decade, it has its fair share of ups and downs. For the most part, however, trends have been positive and boosted in some areas by unique factors. For instance, continued increase in labour force participation by women and older residents has pushed the labour force participation rate (LFPR) in 2014 to a new high of 67.0%. Between 2009 and 2014, median income earned by the workforce has grown an impressive 29%, with real income rising a sustained 31%. Generally speaking, the number of residents who gained employment rose over the 2004 to 2014 period by 7%.

Below is a brief summary about the 5 key pillars in Singapore labour market during Q1-2014 to Q2-2015, which would be of interest to potential employers - Job Vacancy, Hours Worked, Labour Turnover, Unemployment, and Employment.

Job Vacancy

During 2014, job vacancies fell for some categories of workers, like cleaners and labourers, but rose for others, like managers and executives. Despite that, job openings have been fairly equally weighted in Q2-2015 for all skill levels:

51% of the vacancies were for Professionals, Managers, Executives, and Technicians (PMETs), with the remaining 49% being for non-PMETs (28% for clerical, sales and service workers, and 21% for production and transport operators, cleaners and labourers)

Chart 1: Job vacancies for the second quarter of 2015

Chart 1: Job vacancies for the second quarter of 2015


For the most part, an analysis of the available data collected in the Labour Market Survey by the Manpower Statistics and Research Department of the Ministry of Manpower showed that there was an increase in job vacancies in areas such as:

  • Financial services
  • Communications
  • Support services
  • Retail trade

On the other hand, areas that saw declines included:

  • Transportation
  • Storage
  • Manufacturing
  • Real estate services

A point of interest to note in all this is that there has been an increase in the number of job seekers despite fewer jobs being available. This is highlighted in the fact that the seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons moved from 143 job openings per 100 job seekers in March 2015 to 121 job openings per 100 job seekers in June 2015.


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Hours Worked

The total number of standard hours plus overtime worked by employees for Q2-2015 remains unchanged vs Q1, but has fallen slightly from Q1-2014 levels.

On average, total weekly paid hours per employee was 45.6 hours, falling from 46 hours in 2014, whereas average paid overtime hours per employee dropped from 3.7 to 3.4 hours.

Chart 2: Average hours worked per employee for the third quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of 2015


Labour Turnover

Labour turnover was at a five-year low in the second quarter of 2015. For the period, the recruitment rate, which is adjusted each season based on worker demand, remained unchanged at 2.4% while the resignation rate rose to 1.9%. Over the past five years, the rates that were not adjusted per season was 2.6% for recruitment and 2.1% for resignation, a slight decline in Q2-2015. There was a decline in labour turnover in light of a hiring freeze over the year across most industries. The only exceptions were the professional services which saw a rise in their recruitment rate.

Chart 3: Labour turnover percentages for the first and second quarters of 2015

A point to note is that low resignation rates in a company when compared to the industry average usually indicates good labour-management relations. Labour turnover can be quite dynamic for seasonal industries that require specific amounts of workers at different times of the year. For instance, high turnover rates are common in the accommodation and food services industries due to their high reliance on part-time and temporary workers to deal with fluctuations in work demand.


The unemployment rate rose in Q2-2015 despite trending down in the previous four quarters. The overall seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in June 2015 for:

  • overall rose to 2.0%
  • residents rose to 2.8%
  • citizens rose to 2.9%

Chart 4: Unemployment and long-term unemployment rates for the second quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of 2015


After a brief contraction in the Q1-2015, total employment rose by 9,700 in Q2. This figure was about 33% less than in the previous quarter.

The growth in employment in the quarter was attributed to construction and services. The increase in services was broad based, led by administrative and support, community, social and personal; and finally professional services. There were, however, declines in manufacturing, the wholesale and retail trade, and real estate services.

Chart 5: Total employment change for the major sectors for the third quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of 2015

By the end of Q2-2015, total employment reached 3,627,500, a 2.2% increase year on year.

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