Home big read The Big Read in short: Retrenchment blues for young workers

The Big Read in short: Retrenchment blues for young workers

The Big Read in short: Retrenchment blues for young workers

Each week, TODAY’s long-running Big Read series delves into the trends and issues that matter. This week, we look at how more young workers are getting retrenched and why this is so. This is a shortened version of the full feature, which can be found here.


Taufiq Zalizan

The report also showed that among resident workers, the incidence of retrenchment per 1,000 employees rose the highest over the quarter period for younger workers, reaching closer to that of their older counterparts.

For example, the number jumped from 0.8 in the last quarter of 2022 to 2.2 in the first quarter of this year for workers below the age of 30, and from 1.2 to 2.0 for employees aged between 30 and 39. In comparison, retrenchment incidence among workers aged 50 to 59 remained the same at 2.3.

Some young, former employees shared with TODAY how layoffs impacted them.

An engineer in his 20s, who gave his first name as Muhammad, was made redundant this year during his company’s retrenchment exercise, less than a year into the job — his first since graduating from university last year.

Though he had tried to brace himself as best as he could for D-Day, as the impending layoffs were “announced beforehand”, he still felt the shock when the moment arrived.

“I was pretty much at a loss for words and was just trying to mentally calm myself down,” he said.

“Questions like ‘why me?’ ran through my mind, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask them. Perhaps because I knew they wouldn’t give a proper answer anyway.”


Chief economist and head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank Selena Ling  said that companies hiring and firing more quickly in response to market conditions “is not necessarily a negative thing, because if firms are more agile, they may be better positioned to survive the challenging times”.

However, she acknowledged that such a situation would be “unsettling from the worker’s perspective”.

Economists and business experts told TODAY that there can only be so much that can be done to save jobs or forestall retrenchments, as companies and the economy need to respond to changing market conditions.

However, to help workers, they urge the Government to continue support in retraining, skills upgrade and job matching for displaced workers, as well as helping companies in job redesign.

Providing “subsistence” for displaced workers while they retrain and job search would also be ideal, said some experts.

Meanwhile, individuals should continue to invest in themselves in terms of skills and professional network.

“While this won’t entirely prevent redundancies, it broadens your choices and enhances your overall value to prospective employers,” said Mr John Doyle, associate partner at recruitment firm Page Executive Singapore.

Assoc Prof Theseira added: “Having a combination of individual resilience — that is, having savings to tide over, updated industry networks and skills, and so on — and societal resilience policy — that provides income support and training and job search support — is vital.

“Both are necessary to help workers bounce back from retrenchment.”