Why is our Resident Unemployment at 3.7%, so much higher than Overall Unemployment at 2.6%?


Did you notice from the newspaper reports and MOM data that our latest residential unemployment rate is 3.7%, which in my opinion is significantly higher than the overall unemployment rate at 2.6%?

If fact, if you study the MOM data, it has always been higher.

Why is this the case?

The only reason I can think of is that foreigners are better employed than Singapore residents.

But let’s not be xenophobic here.

A plausible explanation

I note that most foreigners have to leave the country if they lose their jobs unless they can get an extension on their employment pass. Hence the lower unemployment rate for the remaining foreigners. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

Let’s also hope that our residential unemployment will not hit the 6.2% seen in 2003 – more than 1 in 20 residents were unemployed then.


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  1. If my calculations are right, as of Dec 2008,

    Total labour force = 2939900
    (provided by below link)

    Total resident force = 1975675
    (number of resident unemployed / 3.7%)

    Total non-resident force = 964225
    (2939900 – 1975675)

    Since the overall unemployment is 2.6%, it means

    (resident unemployed + non-resident unemployed)/Total labour = 2.6%, plug in the figures above and you get

    Number of non-resident unemployed = 3337
    i.e. Non-resident unemployment = 0.35%

    This is a shocking difference!!!!!!!! I suspect if we consider PR figures in the resident labour, the citizens unemployed rate is even higher.

    MOM Unemployment

    MOM Labour Force

  2. Erm, but as admin has quite rightly pointed out, foreigners have to get out within a month (and for some categories, even faster) once they lose their job, including those foreigners with special skills who hold the equivalent of temporary PR while here. So you would always expect non-resident unemployment to trail resident unemployment by quite a large margin. After all, the alternative would be having more non-residents unemployed and by definition, just sitting around in Singapore doing jack shit. Which would you prefer?

  3. A new pass was introduced last year by the MOM which is similar to an EP but not tied to any one employer. It is valid for 5 yrs and gives an expat worker up to 6 months to find another job in Singapore before the pass is invalidated. The pass is a 1 time issue and at the end of the 5 yr term can’t be reissued, the only option then for an expat who wishes to stay for further lenths of time in Singapore is to get PR.

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