Role-playing game helps public better understand job market

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Manpower tried a new, more interactive tack with its Future of Us public engagement session on Saturday, by spicing it up with some roleplay.

Instead of a straightforward discussion, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say led 65 members of the public in simulating the jobs market in Singapore.

The game was meant to help participants, who played the parts of jobseekers and employers looking for staff, understand how and why job mismatch in the marketplace occurs.

Mr Lim said: "We've been talking about structural unemployment for a long time, but we thought one way to bring the message across is not just to talk about it, but to let participants experience the process themselves."

The game started off with those playing jobseekers given scorecards on which their abilities - health and skills, for example - were rated.

They had to search for "employers", who also had scorecards showing what level of abilities they required for each job. If the cards matched, the jobseeker could accept the job.

The game got increasingly complicated, however, as more elements were introduced. In the next round, jobseekers' cards also included expectations, such as career progression or flexible working hours, that the employer had to meet in order for the job match to occur.

Student Kristi Lim, 18, swiftly secured a job as a technician, but lost it in the second round. "I was quite kiasu and looked for the first job I could find," she said. "But I had to leave because according to my card, I wanted more pay."

In further rounds, jobseekers became able to increase their ability ratings by getting a sticker from a training booth. Employers got a quota of stickers which they could use to redesign jobs to increase their chances of filling vacancies.

Human resources consultant Karen Hee, 47, wanted a job at a hospice but could not get it because her salary expectations were too high. After she acquired a training sticker for technical skills, the hospice used a sticker to offer her higher pay to make the match.

In the final round, new "jobs of the future" with higher requirements, such as drone service managers, were introduced.

Systems analyst Suhaimi Hafiz, 52, said: "This game has been quite useful to understand market forces."

But building materials business owner Leon Toh, 46, was less impressed. He said: "I thought there would be talks about future employment, details about how to get your workers better training. In the real world you don't just go around with scorecards and stickers."

Mr Lim said that the feedback produced by participants had come in useful. "For example, when they were going through the exercise, one of their biggest frustrations was the imperfect information available. This is one area where we can do a lot more.

"We can strengthen market information, enable more data analytics to be performed using the National Jobs Bank as a platform."

oliviaho@sph.com.sg