Covid-19 spurs Singapore’s biggest unemployment jump since SARS – dpa international


Burmese migrant workers in Singapore's Peninsular Plaza, a popular meeting point for workers from Myanmar who live in the city-state (Simon Roughneen)

Burmese migrant workers in Singapore’s Peninsular Plaza, a popular meeting point for workers from Myanmar who live in the city-state (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Pandemic-stricken Singapore has seen its steepest drop in employment since the Severe Acute Respiratory System (SARS) outbreak of 2002-3.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Manpower announced that 19,900 jobs were shed during the first quarter of 2020, many of them in “consumer-facing food & beverage services and retail trade, and tourism-dependent accommodation,” which the ministry stated were among the sectors “most severely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.”

The job losses exceed those seen during the global financial crisis of 2008-9, when trade and investment-dependent Singapore was the first East or South-East Asian country to fall into recession.

Singapore has the world’s fourth-highest gross domestic product per capita, according to International Monetary Fund rankings, and its overall unemployment rate remains a low 2.4 per cent.

The pandemic and lockdowns have driven unemployment in Western countries – many with similar income levels to Singapore’s – into double figures.

Worldwide, at least 3 million people have been infected with Covid-19 and nearly 220,000 have died after contracting the disease, including 14 in Singapore.

Though its death toll is one of the world’s lowest, Singapore’s Covid-19 caseload has climbed fifteen-fold in April, with Wednesday’s 690 new cases taking the total to 15,641, the third-highest in Asia after China and India.

Most of those infected are low-wage migrant workers living cheek-by-jowl in dozens of massive dormitories.

The surge forced Singapore to impose an economically-debilitating lockdown on April 7 – after the period covered in today’s new employment data.

Singapore’s central bank warned on Tuesday that the economy could shrink by at least 4 per cent in 2020.

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