Job prospects for workers next year mixed across sectors: Observers

In terms of pay prospects in 2019, recruiters painted a mixed picture, with good salary growth forecast for in-demand skills and jobs.
In terms of pay prospects in 2019, recruiters painted a mixed picture, with good salary growth forecast for in-demand skills and jobs.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Workers in manufacturing and trade may face more uncertain job prospects given slower economic growth forecast for next year but opportunities are likely to remain good in sectors such as fintech and healthcare, say experts.

Economic expansion is expected to slow to between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent in 2019, partly due to the impact of the ongoing United States-China trade conflict, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry on Thursday (Nov 22).

Growth this year is estimated to come in at between 3 and 3.5 per cent.

Although much will depend on how the trade conflict and Brexit pan out, there is unlikely to be a sharp decline in jobs available next year, said labour MP Patrick Tay.

"A lot of companies are looking at diversification, and there is more activity in Asia and Asean," added Mr Tay, an assistant secretary-general at the National Trades Union Congress.

Still, the manufacturing sector is likely to remain stable at best while construction will remain weak, said SIM Global Education senior economics lecturer Tan Khay Boon.

Electronics companies are already tightening their budgets and being cautious in spending, said Mr Tan Richard, general secretary of the United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries. Although this is expected to continue next year, most companies are still trying to pay good bonuses to employees.

On the other hand, services sector workers will likely fare better, said experts.

In the fintech industry, for example, the impact of global uncertainty on hiring is minimal, said Singapore FinTech Association president Chia Hock Lai.

Most financial institutions are looking to innovate and will need people with digital, innovation and technology skills next year, he added.

In terms of pay prospects, recruiters painted a mixed picture, with good salary growth forecast for in-demand skills and jobs. These are found especially in analytics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, fintech and cloud computing, where salaries will continue to grow at around 8 to 10 per cent, said Adecco Singapore country manager Mark Hall.

Education and healthcare are other areas where hiring should continue, however, workers overall may see increments of around 3 to 5 per cent, he said.

ECA International regional director for Asia Lee Quane said Singapore employees can expect to see a real salary increase of 2.6 per cent next year, down from 2.9 per cent this year. Next year's projection is also slightly lower than the Asia Pacific average of 2.7 per cent.

Workers need to look at whether their productivity has gone up enough to justify a pay increase, said Singapore Manufacturing Federation president Douglas Foo, a Nominated MP.

"If the general sentiment is poor, they should re-skill and upgrade to prepare for the next upturn," he said.