2020 is an oddball, with the Covid-19 bringing to light some of the most puzzling phenomena.
On one hand, our little island now boasts 25 billionaires, three of which made the ranks during the pandemic.
Moreover, at the height of our crisis from April to July, the total billionaire wealth grew by 30% to S$139.63 billion.
On the other hand, we are constantly bombarded by headlines like “highest unemployment rate in seven years”, and “8,130 retrenchments in second quarter”. There’s no shortage of superlatives and figures that spell really bad news.
Today (7 October), another disheartening headline catches our attention. Apparently, Singapore’s resident unemployment rate had risen over the past months.
Gradual increase in Resident Unemployment Rate
According to a report by Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the resident unemployment rate was 4.5% in August.
There is an increase of 0.4%, which is higher than the increase of 0.3% in July, when the reported rate was 4.1%.
At a media briefing, MOM Minister Josephine Teo said: “We cannot tell, at this point in time, whether in the coming months, the unemployment rate will uptick at a faster rate, or stay around the same.
“But nonetheless we’re keeping a very close watch, and when the next set of figures are available, we will also share them with the public.”
The figures are (still) relatively low when compared to past recessions. During the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic, the figure amounted to 6.2% in September 2003. Meanwhile, the global financial crisis observed a rate of 4.9% in September 2009.
Nonetheless, there is now a gradual rising trend in the monthly unemployment rates.
Government Budgets Prevent Further Economic Contraction
Whether the trend will continue in the coming months as government subsidies taper off, Teo says MOM is “watching it very closely. It’s very hard to foretell the future”.
“What we can do, however, is to make sure that even the opportunities that are currently available, they continue to be filled as quickly as possible.”
She added that the Government will implement a new programme in the form of the Jobs Growth Incentive before the current Jobs Support Scheme ends.
Based on estimations by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, MOM stated that Singapore’s combined budgets of S$100 billion will prevent a further 5.6% and 4.8% GDP contraction in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
“Our economic support measures will also offset some of the rise in resident unemployment rate by about 1.7 per cent this year. This could mean about 155,000 jobs saved over these two years, although we will still see job losses overall,” said the report.
For now, we can only wait to see the real impact of COVID-19.