Opportunities for PMETs even as job openings shrink

Part of the reason for the slide in vacancies could be that economic growth turned rosier in the second half of last year.
Part of the reason for the slide in vacancies could be that economic growth turned rosier in the second half of last year. ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

Software and multimedia developers needed, showing shift towards higher value-added jobs

In line with the technological boom, the shortage of software, Web and multimedia developers is getting more acute.

This group of workers tops the list of occupations with the most unmet demand last year among professionals, managers, executives and technicians, or PMETs.

The latest Ministry of Manpower (MOM) job vacancies report, released yesterday, also showed a larger share of openings for PMETs, reflecting the overall shift towards higher value-added jobs.The figure rose a notch to 49 per cent of all vacancies last September, compared with 48 per cent the year before.

Labour MP Patrick Tay said the shortage of software, Web and multimedia developers could be due to people trained in these areas preferring other jobs like IT project management. In the past, such work seemed to offer better career prospects, he said. "We need to change their mindsets and help them update their programming skills," he added, noting that more students now seem keen on coding.

Job vacancies refer to openings for which employers are actively hiring workers from outside their businesses.

In all, there were 53,100 jobs up for grabs as at end-September last year, down from 53,800 the year before and 60,000 in 2015.

Employers were able to find workers more quickly last year, and the proportion of vacancies unfilled for at least six months fell to 33 per cent, down from 36 per cent in 2016.

Part of the reason for the slide in vacancies could be that economic growth turned rosier in the second half of last year, said OCBC economist Selena Ling. Companies may have also invested more in technology to become more productive.

For non-PMETs, there were fewer job openings.

Maybank Kim Eng economist Chua Hak Bin attributes this to slower business in more labour-intensive sectors like construction and retail, which is facing disruption from e-commerce.

"But this is in line with the shift to higher productivity, higher value-add sectors," he added.

Other PMET occupations with most unmet demand were teaching and training professionals, commercial and marketing sales executives, and management executives.

Employers cited the lack of relevant work experience as the top challenge in hiring local PMETs for hard-to-fill vacancies.

For non-PMETs, the roles with the most vacancies were security guards, receptionists, customer service and information clerks, and shop sales assistants.

Unattractive pay, working on weekends and public holidays, and shift work were among the main reasons people stayed away from non-PMET jobs that could not be filled for six months or more, said MOM.

In the push to encourage employers to hire workers based on skills, this year's report also included a new metric on whether academic qualifications were the main consideration in hiring. It was not in four out of 10 PMET vacancies, said MOM. For non-PMET vacancies, it was not the main consideration for nine out of 10 vacancies.

MOM urged firms to do more to redesign non-PMET jobs. To overcome skill mismatches, it urged employers to widen their pool of potential hires and tap government support for their hiring needs.

Mismatches will be a growing challenge, as "the nature of jobs continues to evolve with technology and industry transformation", it said.

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Correction note: In an earlier version of the story, we said that there were more vacancies for PMETs last year. While the share of openings for PMETs was larger, the actual number was actually slightly lower than in the year before as the overall number of vacancies went down. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2018, with the headline 'More vacancies for PMETs even as job openings shrink'. Print Edition | Subscribe