NTUC: 2016 might not look good for workers…but there’s hope.

Workers, prepare yourself…2016 is really going to be a challenge.

In first 3 quarters of 2015, the number of retrenchments on the national level stood at 8,600.

(Sources tell us that the overall number for 2015 is likely to hit more than 25,000, which is higher than 20,000 in 2009)

In the unionised sector however, 2,512 workers from 45 unionised companies were displaced from their jobs in 2015. This was a 11.8% increase from 2014. A large portion (93%) of the workers displaced came from the manufacturing sector.

As the global economy slows down with more businesses impacted by related cyclical or structural challenges, the labour market in Singapore is not going to look too rosy in 2016.

The labour movement during a media conference was quite specific in naming the weaker sectors like marine engineering, specialty chemicals, and printing that have borne the brunt of these challenges.

To borrow the words used in their media release:

“Naturally, workers were not spared.”



Four reasons were cited for the retrenchments:

  • Company restructuring
  • Poor business
  • Closure of operations
  • Discontinuation of production lines

The first quarter of 2016 might see some 234 workers from unionised companies being retrenched. This is a 31% increase from the same period in 2015.


Apart from retrenchments, some 2,098 workers from 9 companies went on shorter workweek in 2015 due to low business volume.  In 2014, around 1,323 workers from 5 companies went on a shorter workweek.

Cham Hui Fong

Just about a week ago, NTUC Secretary General Chan Chun Sing blogged about the impending economic downturn.

Today, the mainstream news outlets reported that Barclays laid off 100 of its employees in Singapore.

Besides retrenchment figures, the NTUC released findings from a survey done on unionised companies from various sectors, which showed that the unionised sector witnessed a slight dip in employment benefits in 2015 as compared to 2014.

On a slightly brighter side, workers in the unionised sector took home a bonus of 2.98 months in 2015. Basic wages increased 4% on average as compared to 4.3% in 2014.

If these go on, are we really going to expect an economic downturn much like the one which happened in 2008?

Perhaps all is not doom and gloom though. NTUC Assistant Secretary General Cham Hui Fong in the media conference shared that the labour movement will continue to ensure that the job security of workers will always be taken care of.

But she urged companies to improve on their productivity by being manpower-lean and transform as fast as they can.

“When we move towards being manpower-lean, we should be freeing up resources in the less value-add industries and moving towards the higher value-add industries. This is where we can help to propel the whole economy.”


To the employees, she urged them to seek opportunities to train and upgrade their skills.

“…It is something which will never go wrong…we just need a culture of continual learning,”



Image Credits: Asiaone, NTUC, Own Matters.

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Arthur Lee

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