British firms cite 3 major obstacles to hiring PRs, Singaporeans

Technical skills, salary expectations and advanced soft skills are challenges: Survey

British companies cited three big obstacles to hiring Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs), in a recent survey by the British Chamber of Commerce (BritCham).

Half of the businesses polled in the inaugural manpower survey released yesterday cited technical skills as the biggest obstacle.

This was followed by salary expectations (38 per cent) and the availability of advanced soft skills (35 per cent).

About a quarter, or 26 per cent, of respondents said senior management roles were the most difficult positions to fill with Singaporean and PR candidates in the past 12 months.

Other roles cited as the most difficult to fill with local manpower included positions in business development (17 per cent), followed by positions in IT as well as marketing and communications (12 per cent).

The survey on hiring practices polled 79 British companies from industries such as education and training, professional services, fintech and construction.

It was conducted between Nov 4 and Tuesday.

Singaporeans and PRs comprised 66 per cent of the Singapore-based workforce on average in the companies polled in the BritCham survey.

Despite the Covid-19 outbreak, the majority of businesses in the poll said they were either actively recruiting (37 per cent) or expected to hire staff in the next six months (36 per cent). The remaining 27 per cent said they had no plans for recruitment in the next six months.

In addition, one in five companies polled said it had laid off workers in Singapore due to the outbreak.

Of those that did, about 8 per cent of their pre-Covid-19 workforce in Singapore were laid off on average.

This increased to 21 per cent when it came to redundancies at the regional level.

At the global level, redundancies came to 9 per cent on average.

The survey also looked at the challenges that British companies faced when hiring in Singapore.

When asked whether Singapore universities adequately prepare fresh graduates for "realistic entry-level roles" within multinational organisations, nearly half of the respondents somewhat agreed (43 per cent) with the statement and 3 per cent strongly agreed.

More than one-fifth, or 22 per cent, either strongly disagreed or somewhat disagreed with the statement.

When applied to small and medium-sized organisations, 29 per cent of respondents either strongly disagreed or somewhat disagreed with the statement, 3 per cent strongly agreed and 40 per cent somewhat agreed.

BritCham executive director David Kelly said in a statement yesterday that the chamber will continue to support its nearly 4,000 members with their manpower requirements and the professional development of their staff, by collaborating with the Ministry of Manpower and Workforce Singapore.

He added that BritCham will continue to gather feedback and business updates from its network, "to support the needs of businesses and to aid the ministry with its strategy and planning going forward, particularly as Singapore looks to recover and grow beyond the pandemic".

Correction note: A previous version of this story said BritCham has nearly 9,000 members. The chamber has nearly 4,000 members. We are sorry for the error. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2020, with the headline 'British firms cite 3 major obstacles to hiring PRs, S'poreans'. Print Edition | Subscribe