What is the change? Singapore has released a report on labor market trends in 2016.

What does the change mean? Singapore’s economy continued to grow slowly, with modest growth in local employment, while foreign employment contracted for the first time since 2009. Median income for citizens continued to grow, though at a slower rate than in past years. The annual average unemployment rate remained low, but increased from 1.9 percent in 2015 to 2.1 percent.

Key statistics:

  • Local employment grew by 10,700 (or about .5 percent) in 2016, after remaining flat in 2015.
  • Foreign employment, not counting domestic workers, contracted by 2,500 (or .2 percent). This marked the first time foreign employment contracted since 2009.
  • The increase in unemployment was felt across age and education groups, and was up among people 30 to 39 and people 50 and older. It also rose among those with secondary and degree qualifications.

BAL Analysis: Singapore has worked to encourage employers to localize their workforces and restructure toward an economy that is lean on manpower. The report shows that the total number of employed persons in Singapore hit 3,672,600 in December 2016. Of that number, 2,279,700 were locals and 1,393,000 (not counting foreign domestic workers) were foreigners. Locals made up 66.4 percent of the Singaporean workforce (not counting domestic workers) and foreigners made up 33.6 percent. These percentages are roughly on par with 2015 levels and reflect the two-to-one local-to-foreigner ratio that Singapore stressed as a key workforce benchmark in the 2016 budget speech.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in Singapore. For additional information, please contact

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