Feb 1, 2008
S'poreans and foreigners gain from job boom
By Goh Chin Lian and Keith Lin
THE economy grew so fast last year it created a record-busting 236,600 jobs, with six in 10 of them going to foreigners as there were not enough locals to fill all the openings.
That is up from the 2006 figure of five in 10 jobs going to foreigners.
The Manpower Ministry said in its statement yesterday that both Singaporeans and foreigners gained from the job boom.
The number of new jobs that went to locals rose last year to 92,100, up from 90,900 in 2006.
But foreign employment soared to 144,500 last year.
The services sector was the main engine of growth, adding 144,100 jobs. Most of these were in the financial and professional services. The construction sector grew by 40,900 jobs, double that of the previous year, and manufacturing by 49,400.
Record 236,600 jobs created last year
Six in 10 went to foreigners
At the same time, the overall unemployment rate fell to a 10-year low of 2.1 per cent last year. On average, 56,900 Singaporeans and permanent residents were unemployed last year, down from 67,600 in 2006.
Retrenchment dipped to a 14-year low, with 7,200 workers laid off, the bulk from manufacturing. The ministry said that reflected the ongoing restructuring in the electronics industry.
National University of Singapore labour economist Park Cheolsung said it was unsurprising that in such a buoyant labour market, a larger share of the new jobs went to foreigners.
'The labour market situation is so rosy that most Singaporeans should have jobs if they want to. For many companies, turning to foreigners is the only way they can find workers right now.'
The ministry, which has relaxed foreign worker quotas and hiring requirements in recent years, said the injection of foreigners enabled the economy to 'grow beyond the limits of Singapore's indigenous workforce'.
Singapore registered GDP growth of 7.5 per cent last year.
Foreigners are key to the boom being enjoyed by the construction and marine sectors, where they are taking up posts that Singaporeans find unattractive.
In the shipping industry, workers from Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar are employed as tradesmen - who do work such as welding - as well as technicians and assistant engineers.
Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Employees' Union president Wong Weng Ong said: 'A welder gets $400 to $500 a month. Most Singaporeans won't work for you for less than $1,000.'
An increasing number of foreigners are also working in the services sector, doing jobs that range from waiting on tables to high-end ones in finance, logistics and information technology.
As of December last year, one in three workers here - or 900,800 - were foreigners.
But job growth could moderate this year, economists say. Dr Chua Hak Bin of Citigroup said: 'Already, the global credit crunch has resulted in some retrenchment in certain sectors, such as financial services.'