S’pore unemployment rate at 8-year high

Singapore’s unemployment rate rose to its highest since 2009 in the first quarter of this year, Ministry of Manpower announced.

The unemployment rate, including foreigners, rose to 2.3 per cent in the first quarter from 2.2 per cent in the three months to December. A median estimate of 2.2 per cent was forecast by Bloomberg.

Unemployment hit 2.3 per cent in late 2009.

Unemployment for city-state residents was 3.2 per cent in the first quarter, according to the figures.

And the numbers could rise further, manpower minister Lim Swee Say warned, blaming structural changes.

But the rise is still below the rate in 2003 during the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak and the 2009 financial crisis.

But the challenges confronting the Singaporean economy were “no less daunting”, Lim said.

“Our economy is still growing, not shrinking …[but] some sectors are still under stress and unemployment could rise further. More time and effort is needed to get through this transition completely,” the minister said during his May Day message.

In brighter economic news, Singapore was named the top tourist destination by expenditure in the Asia-Pacific in 2016, according to MasterCard. The city-state easily topped long-time competitor Hong Kong, which ranked 10th.

The Lion City’s tourist arrivals hit a record high last year, bringing in S$24.8 billion (US$17.7 billion). A majority of visitors came from China, India, Indonesia and the rest of Asean.

“The centre of the universe is moving to Asia,” David Scowsill of the World Travel and Tourism Council. “A lot of this [growth] is driven by China. The Chinese [tourist] market has gone from 58 million in 2010 to 135 million now.”

Hong Kong is not attracting the same numbers of tourists from the mainland although they still made up 77 per cent of all visitors to the semi-autonomous city in 2016.

In February 2017, the number of mainland tourists coming to the city was down by 7 per cent, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Hong Kong is a popular shopping destination, which was hit by slowdown in the Chinese economy.

A bridge under construction between Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai is expected to boost visitor numbers.

“I think the secret for both locations is they have to continue to re-invent themselves with new product so that visitors, particularly on the leisure side, come not once, not twice, but continually visit the location every three or four years,” Scowsill added.

Picture credit: Flickr