Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Growth in local employment in healthcare, professional services

Customer care officers recruited by Singtel after the virus outbreak, including applicants from the airline, tourism and retail sectors.
Customer care officers recruited by Singtel after the virus outbreak, including applicants from the airline, tourism and retail sectors. PHOTO: SINGTEL

Local employment still grew in the first quarter of the year in the healthcare and professional services industries as well as in public administration despite the brewing coronavirus crisis, preliminary data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday showed.

About 13,000 job openings were also posted by mid-April under the SGUnited Jobs initiative, through two virtual career fairs and on the portal. The initiative was launched on March 27.

The available jobs ranged from positions in manufacturing, healthcare and social services, to retail positions in supermarkets, Workforce Singapore chief executive Tan Choon Shian said during a media briefing on the employment figures.

Around 11,000 people have applied for the posts as of April 19.

MOM said in a press statement: "In spite of difficulties since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak and seasonal influences, local employment managed to grow at a modest pace. Contractions in wholesale and retail trade, food and beverage services and accommodation were offset by increases in healthcare, public administration and professional services."

Based on preliminary estimates, 2,804,700 people were employed in the service sector, which includes professional services and healthcare, in March.

Telecommunications firm Singtel was among those who have hired new staff through the SGUnited Jobs initiative, appointing 150 people to support roles.

Ms Aileen Tan, Singtel's group chief human resources officer, said: "We had pressing hiring needs to step up our teams to respond or do Covid-19 work, and through that channel, we actually were able to hire 150 of them to join us very quickly so I think the initiative has been very helpful."

She added: "When Covid-19 started... (we) were impacted by the lockdown. We didn't have enough workers supporting many of our front-line operations, handling of hotlines, some of the back office work, some of the service desk agents (and order processing)."

Other companies hiring include cleaning services firm Spic & Span and packaging products provider Containers Printers.

Chief executive Amy Chung of Containers Printers said there were job openings in information technology executive roles, quality assurance, production and operation-related functions.

"We had quite a handful of openings in each of these categories but the response we had in number of applications is far and few between, so hopefully... we may see in these coming months more applications... in permanent positions rather than just temporary ones."

Spic & Span founder Benjamin Chua said: "During this period of time, we do see an increase in demand for our services, especially in the disinfection side of the market."

He is looking to increase his workforce by 20 per cent, including through opportunities for graduates in roles such as business development and back-end processes under a traineeship programme.

This SGUnited Traineeships programme aims to help fresh graduates find attachments. Around 4,000 positions have been pledged by companies and applications open on June 1. Singtel added that it hopes to provide 600 traineeship places in roles such as data analysis, market research insights, product and software development, marketing and sales operations.

Referring to such traineeship programmes, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday: "I think it's a challenge that every country is going to face, especially those that have got large numbers of young graduates coming into the workforce every year... Involving the companies is something meaningful to the graduands, and it is also helpful to the companies in terms of building up for when there is eventual recovery."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Growth in local employment in healthcare, professional services. Subscribe