SINGAPORE: For the first time in three years, more locals found jobs than foreigners.
Local employment rose four per cent last year, compared to 2.9 per cent in 2012, according to the Ministry of Manpower's 2013 Labour Report.
Foreign employment continued to moderate in 2013, at 4.2 per cent compared to 5.9 per cent in 2012, as tightening measures against foreign labour are beginning to show results.
Local employment growth has steadily increased - 37,900 in 2011, 58,700 in 2012, and 82,900 in 2013.
For those years, foreign employment growth, excluding maids, tapered from 79,800, to 67,100, to 48,400.
Assoc Prof Randolph Tan from the Centre for Applied Research at SIM University said: "The main part about this report that stands out is the fact that it seems to imply that local manpower is quite a good substitute for foreign manpower.
"And as long as we have a ready pool of local manpower to be able to step up to the plate and to substitute for foreign manpower, I think that's a good thing."
Authorities note that firms tried harder to bring economically inactive residents back into employment, like female residents and older locals.
Ms Cham Hui Fong, Assistant Secretary-General of National Trades Union Congress, said: "What we would like to see more is 'how do we continue to do more to make the place more age-friendly?'
"Because what we do not want to see is... a short-term knee-jerk reaction that because we don't have the foreign workers... we are just employing and re-employing the older workers."
Real income growth strengthened on the back of a tight labour market and lower inflation.
The growth in real median monthly income for full-time employed citizens was 4.6 per cent in 2013, compared to 1.2 per cent a year ago.
Yet labour productivity growth has fallen behind income growth, which has risen healthily in the past five years, according to the Manpower Ministry.
The ministry said there's a need to sustain and broaden improvements in productivity growth, particularly in sectors like construction, and within services.
Labour productivity rose 1.4 per cent in the fourth quarter, and 1.6 per cent the quarter before, following several months of negative or flat growth.
This was mainly driven by improvements in the manufacturing sector, and wholesale and retail trade industry, as well as the continued productivity growth in the finance and insurance industry.
Observers point to sectors like services and pharmaceuticals that will need to pay competitively to attract new entrants, as the labour market is expected to remain tight this year.
Mr Ian Grundy, head of Marketing and Communications at Adecco Asia, said: "But it's not just about salary, it's about the whole package. Is the compensation good, is the bonus good?
"Are the career advancement opportunities good? Medical, vacation -- all of these things add up."
The ministry expects labour demand to remain strong in 2014, with upward pressure on wages continuing. - CNA/nd/de
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