TL;DR – How easy was it for YOU to find a job?
According to Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, the median period of unemployment for job-seekers last year was eight weeks. This means that half of the Singaporeans who found themselves unemployed last year were able to get another job in eight weeks or less. Is that a good figure? Let’s see how it compares with other developed nations.
According to Bloomberg, the median duration of unemployment in Singapore is shorter than Hong Kong, USA, and Australia. In fact, it is half that of Australia.
This shows that Singapore’s labour market is still tight. This is likely a result of recent curbs on immigration. That said, the first nine months of 2016 saw the most number of workers laid off since 2009. And, for the first time since 2012, there are more job-seekers in than there are vacancies.
Will the labour market stay at this level?
Consider this: PM Lee said that Singapore would have done well if it continues to grow by 2% to 3% every year for the next 10 years. With such growth levels, the labour market will, at best, remain at the current levels, but in all likelihood, will worsen before stabilising at lower levels.
If that’s the case, why are some companies still finding it so difficult to get good staff?
That must be one of the greatest paradox of Singapore’s economy. The explanation to this paradox is that many Singaporeans who are laid off do not have the skills needed to fill the jobs in sectors that are short of workers. This skills mismatch is one of the greater concern of Singapore.
First, it means that sectors which have growth potential won’t be able to get the staff they need to grow. Second, even if Singaporeans can find jobs quickly, they may have to suffer massive pay cuts and be rushing into dead end jobs. They then end up going from dead end jobs to dead end jobs, suffering pay cuts at each stage.
To address this mismatch, our government has a whole host of programmes to help Singaporeans get the skills needed to fill the jobs in sectors that are still growing.
These include three main groups of initiatives:
- 1. Adapt and Grow
- 2. SkillsFuture
- 3. Continuing Education and Training Masterplan
1. Adapt and Grow
The Adapt and Grow initiative, on the whole, aims to enhance employment support to help our people adapt to changing job demands and grow their skills.
To help workers who face greater difficulty in finding jobs, wage support schemes to encourage firms to hire them are being enhanced. For mid- career jobseekers, the Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP) will be stepped up. There will be new programmes for sectors like Design and ICT.
As announced in Budget 2016, that Manpower Ministry will commit an additional $35 million from the lifelong learning fund and Skills Development Fund to support these initiatives.
SkillsFuture is a national movement to enable all Singaporeans to develop to their fullest potential, as well as realise their aspirations by taking advantage of a wide range of opportunities. Initiatives under this movement are aimed to help Singaporeans take charge of their learning and maximise their potential through life. As announced in Budget 2015, spending on SkillsFuture and related schemes will average over $1 billion per year till 2020.
Hopefully Singaporeans will make good and full use of their SkillsFuture Credit and invest in courses that will help them future-proof themselves.
3. Continuing Education and Training
The Continuing Education and Training Masterplan or CET Masterplan is a comprehensive plan to prepare Singaporean workers for the future and develop a source of competitive advantage for Singapore.
The Masterplan has three key areas of focus:
- Building deep expertise in the Singapore workforce, with increased involvement by employers in building and valuing skills.
- Enabling individuals to make informed learning and career choices through the improved delivery of education, training and career guidance.
- Developing a vibrant CET ecosystem with a wide range of high-quality learning opportunities.
Under this Masterplan, the government will continue to work closely with employers and other key stakeholders to build and value the skills acquired by individuals. This collaborative effort will enable individuals to deepen their professional competencies, and advance in their careers based on the skills they gain.
Mindset change also important
All the plans and initiatives that the government can come up with will be all for nothing if Singaporeans don’t have the right mindset. There used to be a time when Singaporeans can work in the same sector, or even in the same job, for their entire working lives. The isn’t as great a need to keep learning and developing different skill sets then. Those days are over. So we need to get used to having to keep learning, continuously deepening our skills, and picking up new skills.
Some people aren’t willing to take on jobs that require them to travel from Jurong to Pasir Ris. They think that that’s really far. Get real. Singapore is small. The commute from Jurong to Pasir Ris is nothing compared to the commute that some people in Hong Kong, China, USA, UK, etc have to make. We should go where the jobs are, rather than expect the jobs to come to us.
And if that means that we need to travel to other countries to work, then so be it. Even if those countries are developing countries. For those those who are willing to take the plunge, the opportunities of working in emerging markets are extremely rewarding. For a start, Singapore is now facing a shortage of people willing to work overseas. So if you are willing to do so, you stand a higher chance of getting a job. And on top of your salary, you could get daily allowances too. Yes, just get out of Singapore if you want to stay competitive.
Yes, we can.
The labour situation in Singapore may be getting tougher. But we’ve been through tougher. We can definitely get through this.