Singapore records fall in foreign worker numbers for first time in 2 years

The number of foreign workers in Singapore has fallen for the first time in more than two years, largely driven by a slump in construction jobs as builders complied with rules requiring reduced dependency on non-residents.

A decline in non-resident employment was also seen in areas such as manufacturing, as well as information and communications, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s labour market advance release for the first quarter of 2024.

Singapore survey finds half the workforce would quit if unable to work from home

In the meantime, applications from foreigners for higher-skilled employment passes have picked up in line with improved business expectations, the report said on Tuesday.

The contraction in non-resident employment notwithstanding, overall employment in the city state grew by 4,900 in the first quarter – notching the 10th straight month of expansion – although gains slowed from 7,500 in the previous quarter.

Redundancies, or retrenchments as they are known in the city state, fell to 3,000 from 3,460 in the previous three-month period.

A worker secures a metal frame at a construction site in Singapore. The dip was largely driven by a slump in construction jobs. Photo: AFP

Singapore, which sees its economy expanding 1 per cent to 3 per cent this year, expects labour demand to strengthen correspondingly, with the ministry citing surveys showing more companies have intentions to hire in the next three months.

Total unemployment edged up slightly to 2.1 per cent in March, with the jobless rate among citizens and long-term residents inching up to 3 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively.

The higher jobless rate last quarter wasn’t unexpected, the ministry said, as higher retrenchments in the second half of 2023 foreshadowed the data.

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