BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei’s private sector hired more locals than foreign workers for the first time in years while the number of businesses grew 1.3 percent, the Annual Census of Enterprises 2019 showed.

Locals outnumbered migrant workers in the private sector with 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent last year, disrupting the dominance of foreign labour in some economic sectors.

The census found that the number of Bruneians joining the private sector grew 5.6 per cent from 55,194 persons in 2018 to 58,283 persons the following year.

There was also a 2.2 percent increase in foreign workers last year, according to the census results released by the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics on Monday.

The rise in number of local employees comes after the government introduced tighter restrictions on recruitment of foreign labour in 2019.

The home affairs and energy ministries imposed the Local and Foreign Workforce Ratio, which prioritises Bruneian jobseekers to fill vacancies in eight sectors.

Prior to the implementation of workforce ratio, the government established the Foreign Workers License labour processing system in 2016 which requires companies to submit proof that they have advertised their vacancies on JobCentre Brunei before they can bring in foreign staff.

Brunei’s unemployment rate stood at 6.8 percent last year, down from 8.7 percent in 2018, according to figures from the Labour Force Survey.

While construction was one of the eight sectors targeted to cut the number of migrant workers, it is still the largest employer of foreign labour in Brunei.

Migrant workers made up 78 percent of the total workforce in the construction sector last year.

On the other hand, the wholesale and retail trade sector recruited the highest number of locals with 12,116 people.

Data also indicated that there were more Bruneian employees in the mining and quarrying, transport and storage, information and communication as well as education sectors.

Source: Department of Economic Planning and Statistics

Brunei sees rise in number of businesses

The census, which sought the input of all companies to provide data from 2018 to 2019, posted a 1.3 percent growth in number of businesses.

A total of 6,157 companies were reported as active in 2019. The increase in number of businesses was mainly attributed to a 3.1 percent rise in large enterprises with 100 or more employees.

Micro, small and medium enterprises accounted for the vast majority of the total number of businesses in Brunei with 97.3 percent last year.

The wholesale and retail trade sector remained the largest type of economic activity in terms of number of enterprises with 2,104 businesses, making up 34.2 percent of the total active enterprises.

This was followed by accommodation and food & beverage with 716 enterprises (11.6%), replacing construction as the second largest type of economic activity.

In addition, more real estate agencies were established with the highest growth of 4.1 per cent among all types of businesses.

The number of hairdressing salons, beauty parlours and spas, as well as laundromats also expanded.

Source: Department of Economic Planning and Statistics

Average monthly income of workers remains stagnant

The census suggested no significant change to the average monthly wages of private sector employees.

Workers earned an average of $1,972 in 2019 as opposed to $1,976 in the previous year.

Mining and quarrying companies offered the highest-paying jobs with an average of $6,463 per month.

In contrast, employees in the agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors had the lowest average monthly salary of $661.

The proportion of male and female workers was also similar to previous years with a 70:30 ratio.

Revenue generated from the private sector expanded 2.2 percent from $24.6 billion in 2018 to $25.1 billion last year.

The largest source of revenue came from the mining and quarrying sector, which comprised 33.4 percent of total revenue in the private sector.