Hiring outlook in S'pore most favourable in almost 11 years: Survey

A net employment outlook of 25 per cent was reported. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Employers in Singapore have expressed the most favourable hiring outlook in almost 11 years for the second quarter of this year.

They reported a net employment outlook of 25 per cent, an increase of 11 percentage points from the outlook for the first quarter of this year, according to a survey of more than 500 employers by recruitment agency ManpowerGroup.

This is the highest net employment outlook, defined as the percentage of companies surveyed that intend to take on new staff minus the percentage that intend to downsize, since the fourth quarter of 2011, noted the agency.

Of the 11 sectors included in the survey, companies in the IT, technology, telecommunications, communications and media sector reported the strongest employment outlook at 38 per cent.

Strong showings were also posted by the manufacturing, and the banking, finance, insurance and real estate sectors (both 26 per cent), as well as in the construction industry (24 per cent).

The weakest hiring climate is forecast in the restaurants and hotels sector (minus three per cent), the only sector with more employers looking to downsize than hire.

The survey found that the manufacturing, retail and IT sectors are planning, or have given, the most generous average increments.

More than eight in 10 manufacturing companies surveyed plan to, or have given their staff, an average increment of 3 per cent or more, for instance.

Meanwhile, the finance, and wholesale and retail trade sectors are expecting to give the largest bonuses on average.

One in two employers in the finance industry are lining up to give an average bonus of more than a month to staff.

The survey also found that medium-sized companies with 50 to 249 employees had the weakest outlook, though still positive, compared to both smaller and larger companies.

Mr Paul Heng, managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group, said the overall bullish outlook reflects pent-up demand by companies in anticipation of a return to normalcy.

“Market sentiments are that ‘I’d rather choose to chiong (Hokkien for rush)’, as employers are sick and tired of the (Covid-19) pandemic and the measures that come with it,” said Mr Heng of employers pressing ahead with hiring, instead of waiting for the situation to revert to an even keel.

Nonetheless, a lack of skilled, qualified workers despite a rise in employment last quarter is a reason to temper the optimism, said Mr Tonny Loh, partner at the Singapore office of human resources consultancy Heidrick and Struggles.

Mr Loh added: "This is evident as more than a quarter of job vacancies in Singapore have been left unfilled for six months or more."

Mr Heng said the positive outlook in the IT and retail sectors reflects a dearth in talent and employers in these sectors have to compete to attract or retain talent.

"Changes associated with granting of employment visas also pose a real challenge."

As for the hiring outlook for hotels and restaurants, Mr Loh said it may be dampened by the uncertain recovery of international travel, as well as local consumers favouring spending on necessities amid high inflation.

On the negative outlook for restaurants, Mr Heng said: "My guess is that restaurants are still being cautious - (they) don't want to bite off more than what they can chew.

"Changes to the maximum number of people (who can dine in together) is something that was fluid and... (changes) may happen again."

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