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Employment unlikely to be affected by Q1 slowdown: unionists
By Valerie Tan/Dominique Loh, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : The Trade and Industry Ministry says Singapore's economy grew by 2.4 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of last year.

Its preliminary estimates also show that the economy shrank by 5.8 percent from the previous quarter.

How will this affect employment and wages?

The slower economic growth for the first quarter was not unexpected, especially since growth last year was quite spectacular.

But unionists were surprised by the extent of the slowdown.

Said Nithiah Nadan, NTUC vice president, "This is anticipated because we expect this year's growth to be around 4 to 5 percent. Compared to last year's high growth, this is expected. But we didn't expect the growth level to go down so low in the first quarter.

"What a lot of us expected was around 3 to 3.5 percent, but it went down to 2.4 percent. But this is just a flash estimate and I believe when the actual figures come out, it will be slightly higher."

They also believe employment is unlikely to be affected, especially in the biomedical sector; it is a capital intensive industry with low employment, so companies are unlikely to cut jobs.

As for whether this slowdown will affect wages and bonuses, union workers are hoping it won't, particularly since the National Wages Council will make wage recommendations soon.

Mr Nithiah Nadan said, "We don't expect it to be similar to last year, but nevertheless those companies which have done well and which have actually benefited from last year's high economic growth should reward their worker for all the sacrifices they made.

"Many companies are still very healthy, in the last couple of months and last year. So this is the time for them to reward (workers), and I hope NWC will reflect this viewpoint."

Unionists are cautioning workers to moderate their expectations as the rest of the year could prove to be volatile because of rising fuel prices. - CNA
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