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If Everything Is Rosy, as MOM Tells Singaporeans. Then Why Are So Few Citizens Working?

On 15 March Ministry of Manpower issued a statement on labour market developments in 2022 that was dutifully reported on by LHL’s dedicated media monopoly aimed at ensuring his re-election and paid for by the taxpayer (oops, state media).

Even though MOM said that total employment in 2022 rose by an “unprecedented” 227,800, in excess of the growth in total population over 2021, the relevant figure for Singaporeans is the number of jobs created for citizens rather than PRs. Of course MOM fails to provide a breakdown, even though they have the information, presumably because the figures are unfavourable and would undermine the raison d’etre for the PAP’s continual insistence that Singaporeans benefit from the ease with which foreigners can work here. Resident employment only expanded by 26,800 whereas the growth in the resident population was more than 3 times that amount. Since PRs will generally have a much higher labour force participation rate than Singapore citizens as they are usually required to have jobs to attain PR status and are likely to have fewer dependents, this suggests that fewer citizens (particularly if we exclude new citizens created by the PAP in the last few years) were employed. The fact that MOM will not publish the data suggests that this is in fact the case.

In a recent article, I calculated that the citizen labour force participation rate (measured as the number of persons employed as a percentage of the total citizen population aged 15 and over) might be as low as 51% once NS men were excluded from the figures and reasonable assumptions about the percentage of PRs and foreign workers employed. MOM’s statistics are difficult to interpret as the definitions seem deliberately confusing but a re-examination of the figures does not alter my basic conclusion: that the number of citizens employed as a percentage of the total citizen population aged 15 and over is lower than 60%. This is lower than the figures for labour force participation in other advanced economies, most of which are in the mid to high 60s. These countries usually have reasonable to generous unemployment benefits which Singaporeans do not get and a host of other welfare benefits such as disability payments which would be expected to keep more of their population out of the workforce.

The PAP may trumpet its success at creating jobs for the total population but this is overwhelmingly slanted towards non-residents, both migrant workers and so-called FTs on Employment Passes. Not having a minimum wage helps to make non-PMET jobs unattractive to Singaporeans while low barriers to entry for foreign graduates, who are often subsidised to attend local universities without reciprocal rights for SIngap and deliberate tilting of the playing field against Singaporeans in general through Employer CPF and against men in particular through the burden of NS and reservist liability.

Singaporeans should be wise by now to the PAP’s attempts to fool them into believing that the labour market is tight and working in their favour or gaslight them into believing that constant upgrading and courses of dubious utility are the answer. For the majority of Singaporeans the PAP isn’t working.

1 Comment »

  1. Dear Kenneth.

    1. It’s high time that sec gen kenneth jeyaretnam walks his ground at all SMC ‘s with his socio economic print outs in mandarin and in malay. KENNETH needs start now to walk the ground at all SMC wards to test the ground.

    2. Sec gen needs to select a strong team of economist and bankers to contest in Jalan besar GRC. LAWYER LIM THEAN, M.RAVI and few others as economist can be selected to contest in Jalan besar GRC.

    3. People’s voice and Reform party must merge in unity as reform Party to contest in jalan besar GRC and in a dangerous seat winning SMC.

    4. SEC GEN kenneth blog posts are excellent!


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