Focus on saving jobs, skills training as vacancies fall: Minister

MOM report shows fewer openings in 2019, but opportunities remain in growth sectors

The MOM report, which is based on a survey of about 15,300 private and public sector organisations, said that the top industries with high proportions of new positions among vacancies last year were construction, information and communications techno
The MOM report, which is based on a survey of about 15,300 private and public sector organisations, said that the top industries with high proportions of new positions among vacancies last year were construction, information and communications technology, and security and investigation.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Singapore saw fewer job vacancies overall last year but there were still many opportunities in growth sectors, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo yesterday.

Going forward, however, the uncertainties amid the coronavirus outbreak mean vacancies are likely to fall further this year, she said.

"Hiring sentiments have weakened, which means job seekers will have a more challenging time," said Mrs Teo in a Facebook post on the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) report on job vacancies last year.

The report shows that despite economic uncertainties last year - like the United States-China trade war - which resulted in fewer job vacancies, employers were still creating new jobs through business expansion and formation.

A total of 42 per cent of the 52,900 openings available last September were such new positions. The proportion was the same as in the previous year, though there were fewer openings than the 63,300 in September 2018.

For this year, Mrs Teo said: "The focus must be to help as many people as possible stay in their current jobs. We can then direct job matching support to those who need it most."

The MOM report, which is based on a survey of about 15,300 private and public sector organisations, said that the top industries with high proportions of new positions among vacancies last year were construction, information and communications technology (ICT), and security and investigation.

Among jobs for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), the most sought after workers last year were software, Web and multimedia developers; teaching and training professionals; and systems analysts.

For non-PMET workers, the top number of openings were for security guards; receptionists, customer service and information clerks; and shop sales assistants.

Skilled workers were increasingly in demand, with the share of vacancies for PMETs rising to 58 per cent last year, up from 53 per cent the previous year.

The proportion has been on the rise since 2013, MOM said, reflecting growing demand from industries dominated by PMETs, such as public administration, education, ICT, and health and social services.

For nearly half of these jobs, employers valued candidates' skills, work experience and attitude over academic qualifications.

But the lack of necessary specialised skills was the top challenge faced by employers trying to fill PMET positions, cited by them for four in 10 of the jobs they had trouble hiring locals for.

The report shows that despite economic uncertainties last year - like the United States-China trade war - which resulted in fewer job vacancies, employers were still creating new jobs through business expansion and formation.

Mrs Teo also highlighted the jobs-skills mismatch as a longer-term issue that must be tackled. While business is down, the Government wants to work with employers to train workers for new job opportunities in the economic recovery, she said. "That may be a long way off, but it's still a good way to make something out of a very bad situation."

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said in a Facebook post yesterday that there could still be job opportunities in sectors and firms affected by labour supply disruptions. He said NTUC is exploring ways to better match people who are jobless or on reduced work hours with these opportunities.

Recruiters said these could come in sectors such as cleaning, professional services and e-commerce.

Adecco Singapore country manager Mark Hall said: "With an increase in digital savvy shoppers, the e-commerce sector will see a growing demand for workers especially... where shoppers would prefer to purchase items online rather than head outdoors."

Professional services, business development, sales and marketing roles may be sought after as forward-thinking firms boost sales and marketing activity, productivity and technology use before they have to fully bear the brunt of the coronavirus crisis, he added.

Mr David Leong, managing director of human resources firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said there will likely be a huge surge in demand for cleaning workers.

Other areas of demand will be in food delivery services, like riders and cooks, and healthcare.

Ms Wendy Heng, Robert Walters Singapore's associate director for sales and marketing, healthcare and supply chain, said demand will rise for expertise in digital infrastructure and support for working from home or split team operations as companies activate their business continuity plans.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2020, with the headline 'Focus on saving jobs, skills training as vacancies fall: Minister'. Subscribe