Employment trends in Singapore
Like their counterparts in much of the developed world, low and middle income families in Singapore continue to face difficulties with the high cost of living and relatively poorer employment prospects.
The Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) recently released data suggesting that while the country’s overall rate of unemployment remains low at 1.90%, resident unemployment is considerably higher, at 2.80%. Residents includes both Singapore born Citizens and Permanent Residents.
Step 1: Changing Economic Landscape
Against a backdrop of sluggish global economic growth, Singapore’s GDP is also slowing. Accordingly, a significant number of SMEs in Singapore are in the process of restructuring, which includes employee redundancies and hiring freezes. SME managers are prioritizing cost cutting, ahead of investment for growth. This is reducing the number of new job positions, particularly in lower-skilled areas. 2015 total job vacancies were down year on year, largely for this reason.
Step 2: Changing Socio-cultural DNA
Throughout Singapore’s history, there has been an influx of both blue and white collar immigrants and expats. Amongst the increase in employment from 2014 to 2015, 97.83% were foreigners while only 2.17% were locals.
Singapore has long placed emphasis on hiring foreign talent, and employers have often favoured foreign over local jobseekers, in the belief that a foreign education is superior. Even now, Singaporeans who pursued education overseas may still find greater success in the job market than their locally educated countrymen. However, while this employer mindset is still prevalent, it is slowly but surely changing.
Step 3: Future in Local Startups
Moreover, facing a much tougher traditional job market than in the past, many young graduates are starting to seek out alternative career paths. Fortunately, there are more and more start-ups popping up. This is a healthy sign, especially if Singapore becomes a genuine Asian startup hub.
Of course, the early stages of any start-up do not typically generate many jobs, particularly as technology will be used intensively. Moreover, even if the pay is low, the skillset would probably not be. In the long term, however, more local start-ups should definitely contribute to the job market in Singapore, and will almost certainly be a source of more local hiring. In the meantime, locals may want to make use of their SkillsFuture Credit in order to improve their employability.
Finally, it would be prudent to keep in mind that employment statistics, being quantitative in nature, do not measure quality of employment which, for jobseekers, can actually be a more important metric.