BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 percent in 2020, according to preliminary data.

The latest figures show a steady decline of the unemployment rate, which reached 9.3 percent in 2017 but narrowed to 8.7 percent 2018 and 6.8 percent in 2019.

Speaking during a session of the Legislative Council on Wednesday, the second minister of finance and economy said administrative data tabulated at the end of 2020 suggested a downward trend in the unemployment rate, but figures have yet to be finalised by the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics, which publishes the annual Labor Force Survey.

“To deal with unemployment, the government via the Manpower Planning and Employment Council will continue to implement policies and initiatives to improve marketability and employability of locals,” YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said.

The council, known by the acronym MPEC, was set up in 2020 to address Brunei’s high rate of unemployment, particularly among university graduates.

According to the Labour Force Survey 2019, 21.7 percent of unemployed jobseekers had a tertiary education, while 17.1 percent hold vocational qualifications and 54.1 percent hold a secondary school education.

Approximately 40 percent of jobseekers also spent more than two years unemployed.

MPEC surpasses job-matching target

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said MPEC had managed to match 12,763 jobseekers with vacancies in 2020, surpassing its target of 12,355.

From this figure 10,561 people found work in the private sector, of which 80 percent were youth.

Last year, MPEC also expanded the iReady apprenticeship programme beyond degree-holders to include jobseekers with technical/vocational and Level 5 Diploma qualifications.

The scheme aims to provide unemployed jobseekers with work experience, and the government subsidises the cost to employers by paying apprentices a monthly stipend of $800 during the 11-month apprenticeship period.

Since iReady was introduced in 2017, a total of 4,040 jobseekers have participated in the programme with 29 percent securing permanent employment.

The finance minister added that MPEC has carried out projections on manpower needs for the next five years and identified 14,000 new job opportunities.