A third of job openings in 2020 was for remote work; about half were newly created positions: MOM report

The pandemic has led many employers to implement flexible work arrangements.
The pandemic has led many employers to implement flexible work arrangements.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - The Covid-19 pandemic has not only affected hiring trends here, but also changed the nature of the jobs on offer.

About 35 per cent of job vacancies last year involved work that could be done remotely, largely for professional, managerial, executive and technician (PMET) roles, according to the annual job vacancies report released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Friday (April 9).

Nearly half, or 45 per cent, of all job openings last year were newly created rather than existing positions, which resulted from business expansion opportunities, job redesign efforts and government initiatives aimed at coaxing firms to transform. This is an increase compared with the previous two years, MOM's report showed.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that the pace of business transformation continued through 2020, despite it being a year of "great turmoil" for many companies.

But employers seizing new opportunities may find it a challenge getting workers with in-demand skills, she added. "For job seekers, a willingness to reskill will be increasingly necessary."

The survey of 14,480 private and public sector organisations found that 27.5 per cent of job vacancies last year were unfilled for six months or more, easing slightly from the 28 per cent from the year before.

Employers having trouble filling PMET positions cited the lack of necessary skills and work experience, said Mrs Teo on Thursday.

For non-PMET positions, job seekers may be deterred by the work environment, the physical demands, as well as shift work, she added.

The survey was carried out in September and November last year, when the labour market here was still reeling from the Covid-19 outbreak.

The pandemic has led many employers to implement flexible work arrangements.

Remote working was possible for 57 per cent of the PMET job vacancies.

In contrast, only 6 per cent of non-PMET openings were suitable for such arrangements. MOM said this reflected the need for on-site work, either for service delivery or operating machinery.

The ministry shared that while the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the economy, it has also accelerated the pace of digital transformation and resulted in a firm demand for infocomm technology (ICT) professionals.

IT development roles such as software, Web and multimedia developers and systems analysts were the most sought after, with demand for such roles rising in the past five years. These employers were prepared to pay more to attract candidates with the right skills, including knowledge of programming languages, said MOM.

In addition, there is demand for analytics professionals, such as operations research analysts and data scientists, to help make sense of the wealth of data available to businesses.

Firms are also looking for cyber-security professionals to guard against cyber threats.

PeopleWorldwide Consulting managing director David Leong said the rising need for ICT jobs is partly due to the need to work remotely and rely on technology during the pandemic.

Business development and sales positions, such as business development managers, also remain crucial as firms adapt and seek out opportunities, said the report.

The healthcare sector is likely to expand with the growing needs of an ageing population. The demand remains strong for registered and enrolled nurses, as well as healthcare assistants.

Non-PMET vacancies last year were typically for cleaners and security guards, as businesses step up efforts on sanitation and enforcing safe distancing. Consumer-facing roles such as shop sales assistants and waiters also ranked high due to the gradual resumption of business operations.

Generally, non-PMET vacancies were harder to fill. Of the non-PMET openings last year, 41.6 per cent were unfilled for six months or more, up slightly from 41.2 previously.


Remote working was possible for 57 per cent of the PMET job vacancies. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Meanwhile, for PMET vacancies, 17.2 per cent were unfilled for at least six months, down from 18.8 per cent.

This is especially so for positions where workers rely on specialised technical knowledge, such as software developers. A significant portion of nursing positions was also harder to fill, partly due to job seekers' preference for regular work arrangements.

The MOM report found that about seven in 10 job vacancies did not use academic qualifications as the main consideration for filling the position, particularly for non-PMET roles.

Ms Linda Teo, country manager at ManpowerGroup Singapore, said that even with the Covid-19 pandemic under control, employers still need to be prepared for a long fight.

"Remote work is also expected to be here to stay," she added.

In a Facebook post on Friday, National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Desmond Choo said: “Coupled with unemployment rates continuing to fall since peaking in September last year, these are encouraging signs that the various Budget measures rolled out have not only helped cushion the impact on business and workers, but also set us on the road to recovery and longer-term growth.”

He added: “I hope workers will continue to keep an open mind when it comes to learning new skills and taking on new roles, or even switching to other industries that are hiring.”