A Whole-of-nation Approach to Tackle Unemployment in Singapore

It’s increasingly hard to find reasons to cheer when one listens to the news these days.

In the United States, the Covid-19 pandemic has sent the economy into a new recession and nearly cancelled out all of the employment gains of the last decade in mere months. In China, college graduates are facing their toughest test in finding a job. The rise in unemployment worldwide signals a slow rebound.

Fact: Globally, the unemployment situation is fast spiralling out of control.  

That, is a situation that Singapore cannot afford to fall into. Singapore’s overall unemployment rate rose to 2.9% in the second quarter of 2020 – a reminder of the devastating effects of the pandemic. The highest rate in more than a decade. Sobering huh.

Support for Employers and Workers

The good news? Since the early days of the pandemic, the Singapore Government has been relentless in its efforts to support employers and workers. How has the Government managed to keep unemployment rates far lower than many other countries so far? Well, it has swiftly coordinated a range of programmes that involve retraining workers, placing them on attachments and traineeships, and getting them back in jobs more quickly.

These efforts are coordinated through the National Jobs Council (NJC), and include the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package which aims to support close to 100,000 jobseekers by expanding job, traineeship, attachment and training opportunities.

Traineeships and attachment opportunities to help boost employability may come from growth sectors, where jobseekers can get themselves ready for new jobs when the economy picks up. Good strategy in planning ahead as always!

Some 92,000 jobs, traineeship and attachment opportunities have been committed and made available to job seekers as of end-July. In case you were wondering, about 7 in 10 of these positions are professional, manager, executive and technician (PMET) roles. By end July, 24,000 jobseekers have been placed into various opportunities made available through this whole-of-nation approach. Although the initial focus was on placing jobseekers into more short-term jobs to handle the surge in COVID-19 related operations, it has since evolved into ramping up efforts to better prepare jobseekers for their next steps through the SGUnited Traineeships, SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways and SGUnited Skills training programmes.

Workforce Singapore (WSG) has also organised various events to help Singaporeans navigate their job search journeys, as well as better access information on jobs and training opportunities. Information kiosks in neighbourhoods were deployed to raise awareness of schemes – more than 5,700 people were engaged through five pop-up kiosks in July.

Outreach and Engagement Activities

A total of 59 outreach and engagement activities have been conducted reaching some 13,000 jobseekers. Nearly 1,000 opportunities were available at 11 walk-in interviews held in July, in sectors such as early childhood education, logistics, food and beverage, retail and manufacturing – with more than 200 people shortlisted. To help jobseekers better prepare for jobs of the future and to improve their job search, more than 40 career workshops and seminars were organised in July. Close to 2,700 individuals attended these events.

Protect every worker; Preserve jobs for all

“Workers have been shielded from the worst economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic because of substantial financial support from the Government, but there will likely be retrenchments and more difficult days ahead,” said labour chief Ng Chee Meng. On top of the Government’s ongoing efforts, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has also pledged to support workers amid these challenging times by protecting every worker, preserving jobs for all, and providing care and support for those in need.

Job prospects in the days ahead may be bleak. But you know what? We are in an advantageous position to emerge stronger. With resilience and grit, we will be able to give our best for this chapter of the Singapore story!