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    Apr 21, 2016

    15,580 retrenched last year, highest since 2009

    MANUFACTURING and services led to the rise in layoffs last year amid a slowdown in global demand, as the effects of restructuring for the sake of greater productivity continued to make an impact.

    These were the findings of a Manpower Ministry report released yesterday, which expanded on last month's data showing that redundancies had risen for the fifth year in a row.

    Some 15,580 workers were laid off last year, a 20 per cent hike from 2014 and the highest number since the 2009 global financial crisis.

    The unemployment rate remained low for Singaporeans at 2.9 per cent, however, and vacancies still outnumbered job-seekers.

    Layoffs rose across all broad sectors last year, with manufacturing proving especially susceptible. It shed 5,210 workers, 31 per cent more than 2014, following the pressures of the global oil slump and falling demand in the marine and construction sectors.

    Another troubled sector was services, where 8,510 lost their jobs, 17 per cent more than the year before. Layoffs also edged up in construction for the third year in a row.

    Firms once more cited business restructuring as the top reason for letting staff go.

    However, an increasing proportion blamed the economic downturn.

    Older workers and professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) bore the brunt of job losses. Among the 9,090 residents who lost their jobs last year, 65 per cent were aged 40 and above and seven in 10 were PMETs.

    The latter group proved increasingly vulnerable, experiencing 8.9 layoffs per 1,000 employees, up from 7.1 the year before, the highest figure since 2009. The overall incidence was 7.4 layoffs per 1,000 employees.

    Residents also took slightly longer to find new jobs after being laid off.

    Eight in 10 took about three months or less to re-enter employment but the average time required inched up to 2.21 months, the most since 2009.

    PMETs took even longer to regain employment, requiring an average of 2.37 months.

    Of those who secured new jobs, 70 per cent had to move to a different industry and were most likely to find work in the wholesale and retail trade or administrative and support services.

    DBS economist Irvin Seah said the growing number of displaced PMETs could exacerbate the problem of under-employment if the new jobs they find do not match their qualifications.

    "Imagine bankers or production managers who are retrenched and become Uber drivers," he added. "We are not fulfilling the full potential of the labour force and this will become a problem."