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A few months ago, a Redditor posted on r/askSingapore:

“When I was young and naive, I always thought it is was difficult to get fired from a job unless one is consistently underperforming or committed a serious offense.

Now fast forward upon graduation, It is quite common for me to read in the news that various companies are laying off people here and there.

Just wondering if such layoffs in SG has always been this common, or is such a practice more prominent to the tech sectors only?”

ComputerStandard8310

As someone who once abruptly retrenched when the company I was working for suddenly closed, I have experienced the emotional and financial impact of suddenly losing a job I was passionate about, immediately clearing my desk and carrying all my barang-barang home.

Retrenchment news is always trendy, especially when it involves the big tech firms restructuring after a period of indiscriminate hiring, while in Sinapore Lazada, Tera Pak, Yahoo Singapore and Ninja Van, all laidoff staff.

14,590 employees were retrenched last year in Singapore, from a workforce of close to 4 million.

And as we live in a small country with an open market economy that is highly dependent on external trade and financial services, and are thus affected by global issues; as DPM Gan Kim Yong stated in parliament on the 1st of March 2024, Singapore’s most recent challenges included:

  • Global food and energy prices rose sharply due to supply chain disruptions, which then led to global inflation;
  • Interest rates were raised as central banks around the world sought to counter inflationary pressures;
  • Geopolitical contestation and strategic competition between major powers intensified;
  • Conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East erupted; and
  • There is growing urgency to address climate change.

However, from the recently updated Summary Table: Retrenchment by the Ministry of Manpower, we can extract a few interesting facts.

What Does The Long-Term Data Show?

For Q1 2024, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) reported 3,030 retrenchments, while the number of retrenchments per 1,000 employees in 2023 was 6.7, which was lower than the decade average of 7.

The current economic forecast is for Singapore in 2024 is slow growth of 1-3% and is expected to perform similarly to 2023, so we should experience a similar overall unemployment rate of 1.9 – 2.1%, and layoffs should be around 14,000.

So you have less that a 1 in a 100 chance of getting retrenched in 2024.

Getting Retrenched isn’t the End, Take it as a New Beginning

The COVID-19 pandemic saw approximately 187,000 jobs lost, mainly by non-residents. The support measures implemented in 2020 for Singapore workers are still in-place today and are reinforced with new schemes (due to the National AI Strategy 2.0 pivot) to help if you face a lay-off in 2024.

For immediate support, you can turn to the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices and the National Trade Union Congress, which will ensure that your employment rights are protected. Even LifeSG has a useful guide.

Concerns about re-employment are natural, especially for those seeking to upskill or change careers. While MOM reports a 59.4 percent re-employment rate within six months for retrenched residents in Q1 2024, Workforce Singapore offers additional support, including counselling, career fairs, and development programs.

For older workers (the median age for workers in Singapore is 44 years old), you have already received an additional boost to your SkillFuture credit to level up.

An additional new re-employment support scheme, announced in 2023 by former Prime Minister Lee Hsian Loong, will come online later this year and will provide temporary financial aid and training/skills upgrading courses.

Feature image: Rosy/Bad Homburg/Germany @ pixabay

Also read: Broke or Bold? Why more Singaporeans are working 2 jobs

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