Employers ramp up hiring while retaining workers in tourism-related sectors

The overall monthly recruitment rate for air transport and its supporting services averaged 3.6 per cent in Q2. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - As global travel resumes, domestic Covid-19 restrictions ease and demand for consumer-facing services rise in Singapore, more people are being hired in the aviation, food and beverage, and accommodation sectors.

Figures by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for the second quarter of 2022 show the hiring rate was particularly strong for production and transport operators, cleaners and labourers in air transport and related services, at 11.6 per cent - the highest among all sectors tracked.

This comes as major aviation employers ramped up hiring to deal with a faster-than-expected rebound in flight volume after border restrictions were eased in April.

Even as overall recruitment rates in the second quarter rose to a rate last seen in 2014, resignation rates for all sectors held steady - indicating that employers have been able to not only bring in workers, but also retain them.

"Tourism- and aviation-related sectors are expected to continue to benefit from the strong recovery in air passengers and international visitor arrivals," said MOM in a statement on Wednesday.

The overall monthly recruitment rate for air transport and its supporting services averaged 3.6 per cent in Q2, a sharp increase over the 0.8 per cent from the same period last year.

Despite the hiring spree, the vacancy rate for production and transport operators, cleaners and labourers in the sector remains high, at over 17 per cent, a figure approached only by that of similar workers in the accommodation sector.

Meanwhile, the average monthly recruitment rate for the accommodation sector in the second quarter was 4.7 per cent, while the resignation rate averaged 3.6 per cent over the same period.

The overall vacancy rate for the sector, at 11.1 per cent, is the highest among all sectors MOM tracks, with clerical, sales and service workers clocking a 12 per cent rate.

The average monthly resignation rate for professionals, managers, executives and technicians in accommodation - 3.6 per cent - eclipsed the 3.4 per cent hiring rate over Q2, a trend seen only in this sector.

In its statement, MOM said the seasonally adjusted resignation rate across all sectors held steady at 1.7 per cent for the fourth consecutive quarter, while the seasonally adjusted overall recruitment rate rose to 2.6 per cent, a rate last seen in 2014.

Taken together, these rates suggest employers have been able to bring in and retain their workers, providing relief to manpower shortages, said MOM.

However, Permanent Secretary for Manpower Ng Chee Khern told reporters on Wednesday that Singapore’s high labour force participation rate of over 70 per cent means there is a limit to how many more Singaporeans and permanent residents can be "pushed back into the workforce".

Nonetheless, he said, the ministry is trying to increase labour force participation via initiatives such as flexible working arrangements that appeal to untapped segments such as caregivers, and part-time work for older workers.

And there is room for non-resident employment to continue growing, with some sectors well short of pre-pandemic levels.

For instance, non-resident employment is about 20 per cent below pre-pandemic levels in food and beverage, with the shortfall rising to around 40 per cent for accommodation, noted Mr Ng.

Despite the continued rebound in non-resident employment expected, the Government is also encouraging businesses to transform themselves with automation and become more lean, said Mr Kenny Tan, divisional director of MOM's manpower planning and policy division.

"It's also important that... it's not just a numbers game, (that) we just rebound to the same (employment figures) as what we've been before Covid-19."

Dr David Leong, managing director of human resource advisory firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said the high turnover was quite unexpected, due to the active recruitment in food and beverage, hospitality, logistics and aviation.

He added that the turnover could have arisen from an ingrained preference for hybrid or work-from-home arrangements that are less prevalent in these front-line, customer-facing roles.

“Business continuity and productivity are severely impacted (and) human resources (departments have) to recalibrate work to prepare for such job seekers seeking a balance of needs.”

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