As the world battles an unprecedented pandemic, Singapore's job market is heading into uncertain territory - with vacancies likely to shrink, employers reluctant to hire and a large pool of workers expected to be looking for jobs in the coming months, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday.
That is why she wants to roll out more traineeships, especially for mid-career job seekers - even beyond the numbers indicated in the Fortitude Budget - so that they can gain work experience while waiting for a permanent position.
"You are going to have many, many more job seekers than jobs available because this is unprecedented. You have never seen a pandemic hit us like that," Mrs Teo said in a video interview with the media.
"We will have to activate every possible channel of opportunities, mobilise them as quickly as we can, and... help Singaporeans get into these opportunities."
Giving a sense of the challenges ahead as the pandemic drags the economy towards a recession, Mrs Teo said preliminary data showed that even in March, the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed people stood at 0.71.
This means that there were just seven vacancies for every 10 unemployed people. But this could worsen rapidly.
There have already been instances of job offers being revoked and companies scaling back hiring, Mrs Teo noted. Some 150,000 workers have faced pay cuts of more than 25 per cent since March 12.
Retrenchments may also spike after the higher wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme - which were raised for the circuit breaker period - taper off for some firms once the circuit breaker ends on June 1 and the first phase of reopening the economy begins the following day.
Mrs Teo noted that there is also a mismatch now in terms of timing, where job seekers are eager to get into a post but employers are not ready to hire because they do not know when business will pick up again. More importantly, there will be too few job vacancies to absorb the large pool of job seekers.
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is also Finance Minister, unveiled plans to have 21,000 traineeships for young people and another 4,000 for unemployed mid-career workers.
More details will be provided later on the traineeships for mid-career workers, but Mrs Teo said she hopes to raise that number and get the support of the newly formed National Jobs Council to expand the mid-career opportunities further.
Such traineeships may benefit unemployed workers a lot and may even get them a job, she said. "The experience is worth something and can be a springboard."
Meanwhile, recent and new graduates can apply for traineeships on the MyCareersFuture.sg portal from June 1, and over 1,000 companies have committed to offering 11,000 traineeships, she said.
The traineeships come on top of other pathways to help people affected by poor job prospects due to Covid-19, said Mrs Teo.
These include the more than 40,000 jobs that the public and private sectors aim to generate, some of which are via career conversion programmes to help job seekers enter new occupations. There are also skills training places.
"We want to challenge ourselves to open up new pathways that are in normal times less explored, a little underutilised, and try to take advantage of this opportunity that exists," she said.