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Most PMET layoffs in 2018 were due to restructuring: Josephine Teo

NEARLY two-thirds of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) layoffs in 2018 happened in sectors undergoing restructuring, said Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo on Monday.

Besides ongoing retraining and job placement programmes, the ministry is also closely monitoring specific PMET segments, such as older job seekers and the long-term unemployed, she said.

Mrs Teo also noted in Parliament that some 5,400 local PMETs were let go in 2018 - a figure that she added was “the lowest level since 2014”. Manpower Ministry data had earlier also shown that there were 6,980 retrenchments of PMETs altogether in 2018.

Among other questions, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Daniel Goh had asked whether the ministry has probed why PMETs made up more than three-quarters of local retrenchments in 2018, while Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) asked if the ministry foresaw worsening structural unemployment in 2019.

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Mrs Teo cited the wholesale trade, financial and insurance services, information and communications and professional services industries as sectors behind the bulk of PMET layoffs in 2018.

She later added: “I have qualitatively explained that the sectors involved are those that are undergoing restructuring to the largest extent.”

Still, she noted that about seven in 10 retrenched workers who accepted help from a Workforce Singapore-led (WSG) taskforce found new jobs within half a year.

“As announced at Budget this year, we will extend the Career Support Programme for two years, to continue providing salary support to employers who hire long-term unemployed or retrenched mature PMETs,” Mrs Teo told the House.

“WSG is also increasing capacity for professional conversion programmes to help reskill job seekers for new jobs, and working upstream with economic agencies and companies to retrain workers at risk of retrenchment to take up new jobs within the company.”

About 17,000 PMETs have been placed into new roles under the Adapt and Grow scheme, while 5,000 have taken part in professional conversion programmes, she added.

Mrs Teo said, to a separate query on the share of PMET layoffs at multinational corporations (MNCs) or foreign-owned companies: “We do not track the retrenchment numbers according to whether the employer was a multinational or a local company, but I understand where your question is coming from.”

Businesses with more than 200 workers - which is a possible proxy measure of MNCs - typically employ about two-thirds of all PMETs but laid off 56 per cent of PMETs, Mrs Teo added.