The uncertainty cast by Donald Trump’s presidency, Brexit and stagnant growth in China’s economy have led to a sluggish jobs outlook for Singapore. The numbers are worrying, with layoffs rising to its highest last year since 2009 while unemployment has been creeping up. Vacancies have also dipped as economic growth moderated.
While it looks like the perfect storm is looming, things are not as bad as it seems. Singapore’s unemployment rate is still among the lowest in the world and jobs are still being created. Whether you’re a fresh graduate or a mid-career professional looking for a new job, here are five reasons to smile, not frown, at the job market.
Slow growth does not mean no growth. In fact, Singapore’s economy could spring a positive surprise this year, buoyed by stronger trade in the region and a recovery in exports. Last month, exports rose for the fifth straight month, burying the notion that the country was facing a trade recession.
In his recent May Day rally Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that there is a good chance that growth will exceed last year’s 2 per cent.
“It is uneven still; not every sector is doing well. Some sectors, like retail, are still struggling a bit. But overall, we are improving,” he said.
But he also warned that as the economy continues to restructure, the process will “not be a painless one”.
“This year, even with better growth, we expect a steady trickle of redundancies. It is inevitable because companies have to continue to restructure, and as they do so, some workers will be displaced. That is why our unemployment rate has crept up a little bit, and reached 2.3 per cent. 2.3 per cent is a bit high for us, but it is much lower than unemployment rate in all the other developed countries,” he added.
Over the longer term, the push to transform the economy will be critical. The rate of new jobs added and salary increases will depend on how much and how fast companies and workers adopt new technologies, skills and markets.
Pay packages are still growing, just not as big as before. According to data released by the Ministry of Manpower, median incomes for citizens rose 1.3 per cent last year, after adjusting for inflation. This year, wages are likely to see a marginal increase, according to a variety of surveys.
One reason for the weaker pace of pay increases is rising inflation. Singapore experienced negative inflation last year, recording a 0.5 per cent dip in prices. But this year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is forecasting inflation to pick up to between 0.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent.
The pipeline of the creation of new jobs is long and lasting. Singapore continues to attract a bevy of multinational corporations and start-ups that have set up shop here, to tap on its world-class workforce, business-friendly environment and overall cosmopolitan vibe of the city. Last year, foreign companies invested $9.4 billion into Singapore, creating 20,100 jobs.
Some jobs are hotter than others. According to an annual global salary survey released by recruitment firm Robert Walters this year, there is rising demand for tech-savvy jobs such as technology specialists, digital marketers and those in the regulatory and compliance industries.
The massive turnout of jobseekers at the Start-up Career Fair in March is a clear signal of demand. Conceived by the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), more than 100 start-ups offered more than 300 jobs in areas like software engineering, technology and creative marketing.
In fact, the lack of skills rather than jobs could be the main reason why unemployment rises in the future, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say recently noted.
He told Republic Polytechnic’s graduating students on May 3 that the Government is determined not to let the skills mismatch widen further. That is why programmes like SkillsFuture have been put in place to help workers learn new skills, adapt to new jobs, and develop their careers.
If you are taking a longer time to get a job, there are many avenues to seek help. Singapore has roped in UK-based employment agency Ingeus and a second foreign firm to help retrenched white-collar jobseekers increase their chances at finding work by offering customised career coaching.
Other schemes, such as the SkillsFuture Credit and Adapt and Grow, are great avenues for employees to stay up-to- date with industry changes. What’s more, there are plenty of subsidies for retraining programmes, which make for a great investment in the long run.
Mature executives, in their late 40s and early 50s, who are concerned about their job prospects will be glad to know that demographic specific job fairs like the Inclusive Job Fair are on the rise. Held recently at Our Tampines Hub, the fair helped to match older job seekers with employers looking to fill senior positions.
Singapore’s highly educated and talented labour pool is also highly sought after abroad.
And the region is offering plenty of promise. According to forecasts released by the World Bank this year, countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are likely to have economic growth of up to 7 per cent over the next two years, owing to investments in manufacturing and the export industries. This means more opportunities are opening up.
Going overseas to work not only gives workers good exposure, which could prove useful for career development in the long run, there are also many important lessons to learn, on top of all the interesting people you will meet and places you will visit.