Singapore's Big Businesses Overtake Small Firms as Job Creators

  • Labor market weak with unemployment reaching 6-year high
  • SMEs still account for about 70 percent of jobs in economy

Singapore’s larger companies created more jobs last year than small and medium-sized businesses for the first time since 2013 as the economy struggled in the face of sluggish domestic demand and a slump in global trade.

Bigger companies -- defined as those with annual revenue exceeding S$100 million ($71 million) or employing more than 200 staff -- added a net 4,300 jobs last year, more than double the 2,100 by smaller firms, the Ministry of Manpower said in a written reply to a question from a lawmaker.

Small businesses are the mainstay of the labor market, accounting for about 70 percent of employment in the city state and making up 99 percent of all companies in the country, according to SPRING Singapore, a government agency that supports local firms. Unemployment in the export-oriented economy hit a six-year high last year.

Singapore added a net 8,200 jobs in 2016, according to preliminary data from the Ministry of Manpower, compared with 23,300 in the previous year. In 2013, the economy added 131,300 jobs, with 55 percent of those attributed to larger companies.

“The bigger picture is that the economic slowdown in the past couple of years is feeding through to the broader labor market and neither the SMEs nor non-SMEs sector is immune,” said Krystal Tan, an economist with Capital Economics Ltd. in Singapore.

Singapore’s economy expanded 2 percent last year, compared with 1.9 percent in the previous year. The government is forecasting growth of 1 percent to 3 percent in 2017 and the central bank said last week employment growth is expected to stay subdued in the near term.

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