UK companies in Singapore report higher sales, more hiring: BritCham

Confidence in Singapore remains high within the chamber's business community, at 83 per cent. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - British businesses in Singapore showed signs of sales recovery and higher recruitment, even amid ongoing concerns about issues like travel and entry restrictions, according to a survey by the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore (BritCham).

Forty-three per cent of businesses reported an increase in sales in the past six months, BritCham's inaugural business sentiment survey found. The survey will be conducted twice a year.

The outlook for future sales is positive, with orders and bookings either remaining constant or increasing for 77 per cent of businesses, said BritCham.

BritCham surveyed 80 companies between June 17 and June 25. The majority of the respondents were in fields such as accounting, construction, financial services, information technology and services and management consulting.

Cash flow improved for 36 per cent of respondents, but 28 per cent of businesses experienced a contraction in investment plans.

Confidence in Singapore remains high within the chamber's business community, at 83 per cent, although this was a decrease from the 94 per cent recorded in an earlier membership survey in February.

"Asean is increasingly critical for businesses located in Singapore, with 94 per cent reporting that the region remains a priority for their business and 79 per cent to a high degree," said BritCham.

The total workforce increased or remained constant for 80 per cent of businesses in the first half of the year.

Nearly three-quarters of businesses were hiring during this period and an overall net 19 per cent expect an increase in their workforce over the next six months.

A company in the recruitment sector said it has seen an uplift in hiring across all vertical markets and employers seem much more accustomed to hiring and onboarding staff remotely.

Foreign manpower contracted 18 per cent on the whole within the total employee base, as the proportion of businesses with a decrease (25 per cent) was higher than those with increases (7 per cent), according to BritCham's survey.

The chamber quoted another company which said: "With the restrictions on Employment Pass (EP) holders and Dependant's Pass (DP) holders entering the country, many talented foreign workers are choosing to leave Singapore, to the detriment of our company."

Issues faced in the recruitment scene include a lack of local applicants applying for advertised roles, pandemic-related restrictions in the EP application process and inbound travel suspension for work pass holders, as well as the recently announced letter of consent rule changes.

From May 1, foreigners staying in Singapore on DPs need a work pass in order to work here, instead of a letter of consent.

Meanwhile, a net 24 per cent of firms expect the prices of their products and services to increase in the next six months amid concerns over cash flow and the cost of doing business.

Businesses also have mental health-related concerns, such as over the well-being of staff who are on employment passes and unable to travel home to see their families.

BritCham executive director David Kelly said: "The Chamber will continue to monitor business sentiments and represent our business ecosystem in dialogues with members of the multi-ministry task force and government agencies to support the combined recovery efforts."

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