SINGAPORE: A decade ago, coding classes for children were probably unheard of, but it is a skill that some human resource experts are now calling "one of the most essential to have today".
In 2015, Singapore saw its lowest year-on-year employment growth since 2003 - 31,800, or 0.9 per cent, according to the Manpower Ministry's 2015 Labour Market Advance Release.
But despite an overall weak labour market, experts said programmers and data analysts are needed more than ever. Jobs in research and development, life sciences, pharmaceuticals and compliance are also in demand.
Kelly Services Singapore’s Vice President and Country Manager Foo See Yang said technological advancements and digitisation of the world have contributed to this.
“The demand for R&D personnel is mainly due to more and more pharmaceutical companies setting up in Singapore over the last 10 years. As for the banking sector, we could see more and more complex banking solutions and products in the market. Hence, compliance roles and regulatory roles are also in demand,” said Mr Foo.
This trend is expected to continue over the next few years. One recruitment expert said this is in line with changes to Singapore's ageing population.
“A lot of the new jobs that will emerge in the years to come will largely be towards the care of this sector of society. That's going to create a lot of career opportunities for nurses, physiotherapists; and at the same time, as the country ages, it will also create opportunities on the other end for childcare services – working parents and grandparents who need help,” said Indigo Drey & Associates Director Benjamin Teh.
JOB SEEKERS HAVE TO TAKE CHARGE: EXPERTS
The Government formed a committee in 2016 to chart Singapore's future economic strategy. Helmed by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, it is made up of five sub-committees, including the Future Jobs and Skills sub-committee, which will examine trends affecting Singapore's job landscape, and recommend ways to prepare Singaporean workers for the future.
The committee aims to complete its work by 2017.
But ultimately, experts said job-seekers themselves have to take charge of their careers. This includes developing niche skills and positioning themselves for both local and global markets.
"The world is flat today. As a result, if you think you're only competing (with those) in Singapore, you're going to lose out. My suggestion would be to improve on your interpersonal skills that you need, whether it's functional - accounting, law, medicine; understand that mobility is important,” said Mr Teh.
“Job permanence has changed. But most importantly, understand how to brand yourself, separate yourself, because your employment landscape is no longer Singapore - it's the whole world,” he added.