Surge in jobs created, but many vacancies still unfilled

117,500 opportunities created for locals; minister urges flexibility to fill vacancies

Despite the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, 33,100 local job seekers have found jobs and training spots through the different government initiatives.

Even in an economy beset with uncertainties and battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore has managed to find jobs and training spots for 33,100 locals through various government initiatives since May.

It has also managed to create 117,500 such opportunities for local job seekers by end-August, surpassing the target to curate 100,000 new jobs, training and attachment positions that the National Jobs Council had set itself.

But a report released yesterday by the Ministry of Manpower also showed that a significant number of unfilled vacancies still remains, suggesting some mismatch in expectations and skills.

Speaking to reporters after a visit to Samwoh Corporation's research and development centre in Kranji, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said job matching could be improved and agencies will do so.

"Job matching is not straightforward, but if job seekers persist in their search, they will be able to find something that fits," he said, in response to a question on how these vacancies could be filled faster.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, speaking during a media briefing before the visit, said that while there has been good progress in terms of placements, the focus now must be to get as many vacancies filled as possible. But she said they must keep an open mind, as must potential employers.

"Employers should look beyond candidates with backgrounds that are an exact match to the job," said Mrs Teo. "Job seekers may also be placed more quickly if they are prepared to consider less familiar roles or sectors."

Of the 117,500 opportunities created under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, she noted that 82,700 - around 70 per cent - were jobs. Of these, around 73 per cent were long-term jobs.

Meanwhile, fewer people were being placed into short-term jobs of less than 12 months' duration. Conversely, 45 per cent were placed in long-term jobs as at end-August, compared with 42 per cent as at end-July. "The steady increase could be because job seekers looking for permanent positions are more likely to invest time in the search process," said Mrs Teo.

While a significant portion of the opportunities were being offered by the Government, the private sector offered a majority - 37,290 - of the nearly 60,000 long-term jobs available.

As at end-August, the top sectors which most workers were placed in were information and communications, food services, professional services, healthcare, and finance and insurance.

But on a more cautious note, the Ministry of Manpower pointed out that Singapore's resident unemployment rate rose to 4.5 per cent in August.

The figure was an increase of 0.4 percentage points, slightly higher than the increase of 0.3 percentage points in July, when resident unemployment was 4.1 per cent.

While monthly unemployment rates have so far generally remained lower than past recessionary highs, they have been gradually rising, the ministry added.

Asked if a higher unemployment rate could be expected in the coming months as government subsidies taper off, Mrs Teo said: "We're watching it very closely. It's very hard to foretell the future.

"What we can do, however, is to make sure that even the opportunities that are currently available, they continue to be filled as quickly as possible."

Mrs Teo said that job seekers could seek professional career guidance early to make their job search more effective.

"The road to recovery will continue to take time," she said. "We will press on to support more successful matches. We also urge job seekers and employers to play their part to make this possible by staying open to new opportunities."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2020, with the headline 'Surge in jobs created, but many vacancies still unfilled'. Subscribe