Wages of highly skilled, educated workers rising faster here: Index

Wages of workers with high levels of experience, education and technical knowledge are being driven higher, as employers here find it harder to hire such workers, says a recruitment firm.

The Hays Global Skills Index - which assesses the capacity of labour markets in 31 nations to supply skilled labour - was released yesterday. It was produced by Hays in collaboration with Oxford Economics, a forecaster linked to the University of Oxford .

Wages of highly skilled and educated workers are rising faster than those of low-skilled industry workers, Ms Lynne Roeder, managing director of Hays in Singapore, said in a statement. Candidates with skills in specialised areas such as technology and engineering, or with the qualifications for managerial and senior roles, are in short supply.

"Growing technical skill shortages (and) government initiatives that endorse local Singaporean hires for middle-income jobs have exacerbated the shortage of talented locals, as the huge increase in overall wage pressure shows."

The job market here, however, was "highly active", she said. This was due to Singapore's ability to attract multinational corporations to set up regional operations here, and the "sheer number of construction and infrastructure projects".

On the whole, local wages are increasing quicker than last year, boosted partly by the race for highly skilled professionals. The index score for "overall wage pressure" here rose significantly from 1.3 last year to 5.8 this year. A score close to zero indicates little to no pressure, while close to 10 means severe pressure.

In 2012, the overall wage pressure score was 6-6.9. In that year, the median gross monthly income from work (which includes employer CPF contributions) of a full-time worker grew by about 6.47 per cent.

Overall wage pressure fell to 2.6 in 2013. Then, median income grew only 1.75 per cent.

Mr Joshua Yim, chief executive officer of recruitment firm Achieve Group, said senior employees here are indeed seeing larger wage increments than junior ones. Apart from having skillsets that could create more value for the firm, senior workers are in higher demand also because more firms are seeking to use their skills to capitalise on growth in Asean and the Asia-Pacific region.

As business costs in Singapore are relatively high, firms are limited in their ability to raise the wages of lower-skilled workers. "If a candidate has just transactional skills, firms may not see the value in paying so much to the candidate. "

Also, there are still low-skilled foreign workers entering the Singapore economy - albeit at a slower pace than before - and willing to work for relatively low wages. This reduces upward wage pressure in some sectors, like food and beverage and construction, he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Wages of highly skilled, educated workers rising faster here: Index'. Print Edition | Subscribe