The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on the global economy.
During the early stages of the outbreak, governments across the world had to implement various safety measures like lockdowns and stay-at-home orders in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
A lot of these global measures are still in place (whether partially or fully) today.
This signaled impending doom for independent business owners as well as the average salary man.
Financial and economic powerhouses like Singapore are not immune to the virus’ deadly grasp.
According to the island nation’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Singapore’s overall unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2020 increased to 2.4 percent. The previous quarter saw 2.3 percent.
That increase mostly affected the local population (Singaporean citizens), which saw their unemployment rate rise from 3.3 percent to 3.5 percent. Among those who live and work in Singapore, like permanent residents, the unemployment rate rose from 3.2 percent to 3.3 percent.
But why did this happen?
Well, aside from the usual ebb and flow of the economy, there was one glaring contributor to this downturn – the coronavirus, obviously.
Because of the looming concern of virus transmission, businesses were forced to shut their doors, leaving only essential business running at a limited capacity.
This affected 1,537 local employees in just the first quarter alone, a steep increase from the 628 employees affected in the previous quarter.
But those who retained their jobs didn’t have it that much better either.
4,190 employees were placed with shorter work hours and furloughs, which amounts to a five-fold increase from the previous quarter back in 2019.
But it still wasn’t as bad as what the Singaporean economy experienced during the Global Financial Crisis of 2019. During that time, 26,590 employees lost their jobs.
In a sense, employers have learned from the past. Instead of letting people go completely, they’ve chosen to reduce work hours.
As if things couldn’t get worse, job vacancies also took a big hit.
If being retrenched wasn’t enough, the fact that there were very little job vacancies to fall back to as a safety net just made things worse for the unemployed.
According to the MOM, there were only 44,300 job vacancies in March this year, which is a far cry from the 52,700 openings in December last year.
Essentially, the job vacancy to unemployed persons ratio dipped from 0.84 to 0.71 in the first quarter of 2020. This means that there was only one job for every ten unemployed Singaporeans.
And unsurprisingly, the sectors that saw the biggest reduction in job vacancies were the food and beverage (F&B) industry, as well as the arts, entertainment, and recreation industries. This was due to the need for social distancing, of course.
In terms of total employment, which refers to the amount of people who still had jobs, the F&B, construction, and retail trade industries saw the largest dips – 8,300, 5,800, and 5,400 respectively.
But the first quarter wasn’t all bad.
Other sectors like financial services and public administration saw growth of more than 2,000 employees each. However, this increase of employment didn’t help balance the current economic downturn.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo stressed caution for people to be prepared for more layoffs in the future, and to do everything they can to help out those that are unemployed.
“We have to try our very best to open up more pathways for the job seekers,” says Teo.
Cover image sourced from Discovery SG.