S’pore’s unemployment rate low compared to developed countries?


I refer to Chris Kuan’s article “Stealing lunches and citizen unemployment rate” (theonlinecitizen, May 2).

It states that “There are 74.4k unemployed residents of which 67.1k or 90% are citizens.

We do not yet know the total number of unemployed persons at the end of Q1 2017. MOM is not making this easy.

But using the labour force statistics as of Dec 2016, then the 2.3% unemployment rate translates into 84.5k of foreign workers, PR and citizens.

This infers that Singaporeans make up nearly 80% of the unemployed and unemployed foreign workers make up less than 1% of the non-resident work force.

This confirms what many people feel about the unemployment situation of Singaporeans vis a vis PRs and non-resident (or foreign) workers.

It is little wonder that the Straits Times used the lowest number the 2.3% overall unemployment in its article of the PM’s May Day speech. It obscures the much higher unemployment rate for Singaporeans.”

Our citizens’ unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent may arguably be higher, because despite granting about 20,000 new citizens a year – the estimated citizens’ percentage in the total workforce is 53 per cent.

Since the majority of new citizens may be working (and it is inconceivable that an unemployed person would be granted citizenship) – it may make the citizens’ unemployment rate look lower than it would otherwise may have been, if we make an adjustment for new citizens to count only true-blue Singaporeans.

Considering the fact that we have hardly any unemployment benefits – we may not be too far off from the cited five per cent unemployment rate in developed countries.

Another way of explaining this effect, may be that if other developed countries did not have unemployment benefits – their workers may be less inclined to be or stay unemployed.

Thus, their unemployment rate may then be lower too.

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.