Analysts say retrenchments expected as early as December

SINGAPORE : Singapore’s economy is expected to grow by only 3 per cent this year.
Ahmad’s wife is a homemaker. The family spends about S$300 every month for household needs.

When Ahmad was unemployed for two months, he applied to six companies for a job. But he only received one call back.

Since then, he has been tapping on what little savings he has to support his family of four. But the fear of losing his job lingers with the poorer economy today.

And while the good news is that Asia is not at the epicentre of this current crisis, it is little comfort to the average worker.

Irvin Seah, economist, DBS Bank, said: "At least for the next four quarters or so, we should prepare ourselves mentally for a slower growth and a softer labour market.

"You would probably see your bonuses not coming in, fresh graduates will probably have difficulties finding good—paying jobs and those who would like to seek for better opportunities will find it extremely difficult. So to put it (simply), we are in for a rough ride ahead."

Mr Seah added: "We have been through some difficult times during the Asian Financial Crisis. And if you compare to those days, the banking sector, the structure of the banking sectors in Asia has certainly become a lot stronger. Banks are much more robust and better capitalised nowadays — I am referring to the Asian banks.

"So we are definitely in a much better position, and I believe that as long as for the US and the Eurozone, (if) they are able to find solutions to the problems, then I guess Asia should be able to ride off this difficult times and emerge even stronger."

Community organisations are bracing to help needy residents. North West Community Development Council is starting a kitchen cooperative, which will be operational by the end of the year.

Teo Ho Pin, Mayor, North West District, said: "This kitchen is basically to provide jobs to our residents. At the same time, it is also a business, where we bake Malay kuehs, pastries to sell and to cater to various functions.

"It will also provide hot meals for needy residents. And one of the kitchens will be located at Bukit Panjang CC, and that will cater to about maybe 100 residents in Bukit Panjang town."

Dr Teo added: "We are expecting more residents to come forward to the CDC for assistance. So what we have done at Northwest CDC is that we have geared up in our various assistance schemes. So in terms of our job assistance schemes now, we are focusing on helping our residents to switch careers or move into (a) new industry, especially the service industry.

"So we have worked out various schemes... recently we had a career exploration scheme, where we actually provide opportunities — working with employers — to give our job seekers opportunities to have a work trial.

"That means going to the company to work for a couple of days, then if the employers and job seekers... find that they can match, then we will support in terms of providing training, subsidies, and they will undergo a proper training course to upgrade their skills, and we will also help them transit into their new work environment."

The CDC also plans to offer hot meals to needy residents. With the downturn, it is expecting the number of applications for social assistance to go up from 600 to 800 a month. — CNA/ms


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