Singapore employers fire record number of workers

Shamim Adam

Singapore employers fired a record number of workers last quarter as the nation’s deepest recession since independence in 1965 forced manufacturers to cut output.

The Southeast Asian nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 3.2 percent from a revised 2.5 percent in the previous quarter, the Ministry of Manpower said today. Employers retrenched 10,800 workers, and another 1,800 were released from their contracts early, bringing total job cuts to 12,600.

The worst global recession since World War II has battered trade-dependent Singapore, where the government says gross domestic product may shrink as much as 9 percent this year. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s efforts to prevent job losses by handing out cash haven’t stopped companies such as music- player maker Creative Technology Ltd. from firing workers.

“Falling external demand has severely affected the manufacturing sector,” the report said. Employment declined “as the economy continued to worsen.”

Singapore will make a “slow and gradual” climb out of the current recession, and the island’s economy won’t experience a “decisive rebound” this year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said yesterday.

The jobless rate was the highest in more than three years, and in line with the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of nine economists. The manufacturing industry lost 19,900 jobs, while service industries added 10,300 new positions last quarter, the report showed.

Construction companies hired 8,500 new workers, resulting in a total net job loss of 1,000 jobs in the first three months of 2009, the report said.

About 13,920 workers were retrenched last year in Singapore, the most since 2003, while another 2,970 people were released before their contracts ended, the most since 1998.

In the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, about 30,000 workers were retrenched in Singapore, and some 26,000 people lost their jobs in the 2001 recession.

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