Labor Market in Singapore

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  • Topic: Employment, Singapore, Labor
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  • Published : March 4, 2009
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Since Singapore gained its independence in 1965, its economy had progressed due to globalization, rapid technological advances and the rise of China and India. With these different stages of development, Singapore’s labor market had adapted itself by transforming from a labor abundant and capital limited city into a labor deficient and capital rich country (Chia 2005). Singapore is now a popular export-manufacturing base, regional headquarter for foreign multinational company and a financial centre (Chia 2005). The industrial structure has also progressed from a labor intensive export manufacturing to a capital and technology intensive manufacturing, which hence provided capabilities to compete globally not only for its cost and efficiency but also for its innovation and creativeness (Chia 2005). Other crisis which also left a mark in Singapore’s employment structure were namely, the 1997/8 Asian economic crisis, the 2001 global downturn, the grow of terrorism and the 2003 SARS outbreak (Employment trend and structure, 2004).

This report will therefore bring you through the changes that had taken place in Singapore’s labor market from the past to present. I will touch on a few crucial aspects leading to these changes, namely, globalization, technology advancement, aging population, gender differences and education. Last but not least, I will also comment on the strategies some employers had adopt on ensuring their continuing success.

Overview of Singapore Labour market in the PAST Verse PRESENT

During the boom years, 1993 – 1997, with the growth of economy, the labor market was tight with unemployment hovering at only 2% and over the 5 years, local employment rose by 183 400 people (Employment trend and structure, 2004). During the volatile years from 1998-2003, several shocks like, SARS, terrorisms and currency crisis had hit Singapore. Asian financial crisis had also caused an employment contraction of 27 700jobs in 1998. Economic got worst when the September 11 terrorist attacks on US took place. These affected Singapore labor market greatly, with employment declining by 22 900 from 2001 to 2002. Hence over the 5 years, only 102 000 of jobs were created, this show a drastic falls as compare to the boom years (Employment trend and structure, 2004). However towards the end of 2003, the employment does show a little pick up due to the boost in hiring employee to cope with post SARS recovery (Employment trend and structure, 2004). The unemployment rate closed at 4.5% in 2003, this show a significant increase as compare to the boom years.

Main change in labor market:

Technology and Education

With the rapid advancement in technology, many manufacturing industries had changed part/all of their manufacturing process to automation to minimize errors, increase quality and reducing manpower. Manufacturing sector therefore shows a decline in employment as they had restructured away from a labor intensive industries and operation (Chia 2005). Hence, the needs for unskilled labor had gradually decreased to 2.1% in manufacturing sector (Ministry of Manpower 2007). Consequently, educating more labor and transforming them into skilled labors become the key issue in order for labors to stay competitive. As Singapore economy restructures up into a valuable market, the jobs created will need more specialized skills and knowledge, especially in service-oriented economy (Ministry of Manpower 2004). This therefore resulted in a 32% drop of labors that possess education level below primary and vice versa an rapid rise of 471% of degree holders from 1991-2006 (Ministry of Manpower 2006), this shown that there were more skilled labors in Singapore as compare to the past. More Singaporeans had also become multi-lingual by equipping themselves with 2 or more languages and hence increased the literacy rate by 91.6% in 1993 (Tan 1995). Government had also aimed to open the 4th publicly funded...
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