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'Premature to speculate' about downturn support: Josephine Teo

IT is premature to speculate what kinds of support measures should be introduced if Singapore enters a prolonged slowdown, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament on Tuesday. 

Noting that Singapore's current economic situation and outlook are very different from those of recent downturns such as the Global Financial Crisis, Mrs Teo said that the government's approach is to assess the causes of any downturn: whether they are cyclical, structural or both.

The strategies taken will be different depending on circumstances, she added.

Earlier, responding to Member of Parliament Desmond Choo, Mrs Teo had highlighted the difference between the manpower situation during the Global Financial Crisis and the "completely different" situation today.

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In the first half of 2009, there were over 19,000 retrenchments, compared to the typical full-year figure of 15,000. In the second quarter of 2019, retrenchments were still "fairly low" at 2,300.

For the full year of 2009, some analysts estimated job losses at 100,000. In contrast, in Q2 2019, "employment growth slowed but it did not stall", noted Mrs Teo.

Mr Choo also asked how effective the ministry's support measures had been in past downturns. Mrs Teo replied that according to a Ministry of Manpower survey in 2009, three in four companies with earlier plans to retrench workers said that they had postponed or reduced the number of affected workers due to government support schemes such as Jobs Credit.