The Republic's economic recovery flowed through to its labour market by the end of 2009, as job losses shrank to pre-recession levels in the last quarter, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said yesterday.
The number of workers made redundant - made up of retrenchments and premature contract terminations - fell to 2,220 in Q4 2009 from the first quarter's record high of 12,760.
In all, 23,430 workers were laid off last year, 20,160 of whom were retrenched. This means that 14 in every 1,000 employees were made redundant last year, higher than the 11 in 1,000 laid off in 2008.
But this was lower than the proportion of workers axed in the 1998 and 2001 recessions, 'reflecting the impact of the Resilience Package and concerted tripartite efforts in saving jobs', MOM said.
Redundancies among professionals, managers, engineers and technicians (PMETs) rose most sharply in both absolute and percentage terms. They made up 41 per cent of those who lost jobs last year, compared to 37 per cent in 2008.
The absolute number of PMETs made redundant also rose more sharply from 6,200 in 2008 to 9,570 last year, compared to clerical, sales & service positions, and production & related workers.
The latter group remained the largest group among those laid-off though - 48 per cent of jobs lost last year were in production and related work.
Naturally, the sharp fall in industrial production meant that manufacturing jobs were hardest hit. Six in 10 of workers laid off had been in manufacturing.
It was also in the industrial sector that workers felt the threat of retrenchment most keenly. Thirty-six in every 1,000 manufacturing employees were made redundant (those in electronics were most vulnerable, followed by rubber and plastic-product makers), compared to 8.5 and four in 1,000 respectively for the services and construction sectors.
The move from recession to recovery was also reflected in the reasons employers gave for laying off workers. In the first half of 2009, the economic downturn dominated, accounting for 63 per cent of jobs axed. But as the economy stabilised in the second half of 2009, business reorganisation and restructuring of business processes emerged as key reasons, accounting for 36 and 32 per cent of job losses.
The economy's rebound also improved re-employment prospects for the laid off. Central Provident Fund (CPF) records show that over half the residents made redundant in the third quarter of 2009 were re-employed by December last year.
This re-employment rate of 52 per cent (which counts those who find new jobs within six months of being laid off) edged up from 51 per cent in September and the low of 43 per cent in June. The overall rate of 65 per cent for 2009 was lower than 2008 but comparable to previous recession years'.
Laid off workers took on average 2.7 months to find new employment last year, much higher than the 2008 cohort's 1.6 months.
This could be due to the higher share of PMETs among those made redundant, as their higher skills specialisation could have made it harder to find a new job, the MOM report said. Also, more locals may have gone for training under the government's SPUR scheme, launched in December 2008, before taking on a new job.
Source: Business Times, 27 Apr 2010