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Fewer job openings amid softer economy: Manpower Ministry

In September 2015, there were 116 openings per 100 job seekers, down from 121 in June and 143 in March, according to the Ministry of Manpower. 

SINGAPORE: Amid softer economic conditions, the number of job vacancies in Singapore declined in 2015, although it still exceeded the number of job seekers, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Wednesday (Feb 3).

According to the ministry’s Job Vacancies 2015 report, there were 60,000 job vacancies as of September 2015. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, there were 116 openings per 100 job seekers, down from 121 in June and 143 in March.

4 IN 10 VACANCIES ARE PMET JOBS

However, openings remained available for all occupations, with service and sales workers, professionals and associate professionals and technicians most sought after, the ministry said.

Four in 10 of job vacancies, or 43 per cent, were for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). These include teaching and training professionals, management executives, commercial and marketing sales executives, and software, web and multimedia developers. This was followed by service and sales workers with 23 per cent of the openings, such as waiters, security guards and shop sales assistants.

The proportion of vacancies unfilled for at least six months declined to 39 per cent from 41 per cent. Job openings that were more likely to be difficult to fill include service and sales workers, and cleaners, labourers and related workers. In contrast, only about two in every 10 PMET openings were unfilled for extended periods.

Employers indicated unattractive pay, long working hours, physically strenuous job nature and shift work as difficulties in recruiting locals to fill non-PMET openings. For PMETs, unattractive pay and the lack of necessary work experience were common reasons for hard-to-fill openings, MOM said.

Vacancies were available for all educational levels, with more for both ends of the educational spectrum. Specifically, those requiring at least primary or lower (25 per cent) and university degree qualifications (24 per cent) were most in demand. There were also openings for secondary (19 per cent) and those with diplomas and professional qualifications (17 per cent).

“Companies will have to improve the quality and attractiveness of their jobs to fill up their vacancies faster. Likewise, job seekers will also have to make themselves more employable and adaptable to land a job faster,” MOM said.

Going forward, the ministry will continue to work with tripartite partners to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce, it added.

"WE SHOULD NOT TAKE THIS FOR GRANTED": LIM SWEE SAY

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said employers and workers should prepare for slower growth in the workforce as Singapore restructures its economy. 

"The (number of) job vacancies in Singapore, I think on the whole, it is still healthy. However, we should not take it for granted because as we go through this re-positioning of economy, we can expect job growth to come down on the part of the job seekers. We can expect the workforce growth to come down, so which means on the part of employers, they should take note," said Mr Lim. 

HR recruitment firm Randstad is, however, more optimistic about prospects. 

"In 2016, you'll definitely see a slow start to job vacancies, particularly with the festive season around this period. We expect to see a market correction going into quarter two and quarter three, typically because of budget and hiring as well as attrition that takes place during that time of the year," said Randstad Singapore's country director, Jaya Dass.

"If you look at the Singapore economic climate, in quarter four, our GDP outlook turned out to be much better than forecast. Which means the market is performing a little bit better than expectations to start with. And I'm optimistic that the sentiment will continue through in 2016," she added. 

Mr Lim also said the Manpower Ministry will focus on helping workers fit the jobs that are already available. 

"For the Ministry of Manpower, our concern is not just about making sure that there are enough jobs for workers. But more importantly, looking in future, our greater concern will be in terms of maximising the matching between the two. So in other words, can we make every job a better job, can we make every worker a better worker?" he said.

He said that for this to happen, employers, workers and the Government will have to work together.