Part-timers, freelancers an option during labour crunch: Experts

Part-timers, freelancers an option during labour crunch: Experts

Some experts say part-timers or free agents can be a helpful option for companies in times of slow growth, but others say there are limitations to the roles they can fulfil.

SINGAPORE: Amid a tight labour market, industry watchers have said Singapore businesses should consider hiring on a part-time or freelance basis. Given the uncertain global outlook, this could help to manage operational costs, they said.

Local startup Temploy, was set up last year to tap the growing part-time labour market in Singapore. It operates a web-based job-matching platform, through which job-seekers can clearly state their availability and preferences, and employers can then choose the best fit for their needs.

Temploy says it has been able to attract people from 18 to 24 years of age, as well as 38- to 50-year-olds.

As a company, Temploy itself employs a mix of part-timers, flexi-timers and freelancers, including its finance head, to support operations. The firm said hiring such free agents is not only more affordable than full-time hires, but it also has a shorter on-boarding time, allowing them to begin work in a shorter period.

"If they find a good culture, scope fit they generally hit the ground running, they can actually begin work a lot shorter than the traditional 9-5 model,” said Mr Mark Koh, CEO of Temploy. “And beyond that, the engagement costs of hiring a part-timer is significantly lower than hiring someone in the linear space. We're talking about an aggregate of about S$600 per position less than what you would have had to spend on search fees or either the opportunity costs or even the turnover."

In a recent survey, HR consultancy Kelly Services Singapore found that more employees were looking for a workstyle with greater freedom, flexibility and entrepreneurial benefits. It added that in periods of slow growth, part-timers or free agents can be a helpful option for companies.

"A free agent is very helpful in terms of the talent supply chain management mix,” said Mr Foo See Yang, acting country general manager for Kelly Services. “In this mix, it's always good to have some of your core talent in the permanent role and subsequently redesign your jobs in a certain manner where it can be serviced with free agents. This gives a lot of flexibility in your business, so basically, to remain in this tight market, to remain competitive your business model needs to travel light."


However, industry leaders said operational flexibility may have its downside.

Said Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small Medium Enterprises: “The downside is that you need to pick the right person, you probably need some relevant confidentiality paperwork involved and there's often a less controlled ability when hiring freelancers.

"The other factors are if you need them to expand their role or multi-task, they're not available for that because they're hired for a specific role. So from a control and expansion perspective, role expansion perspective, there's a bit of limitation."

According to the Manpower Ministry, in 2014, part-time employment formed 10.5 per cent of employed residents in Singapore, up from 10 per cent in 2013. In its latest Labour Market Statement, the Manpower Ministry expects the market to remain tight and put upward pressure on wages.

In the recent flash estimates, Singapore narrowly avoided a technical recession with the economy growing by 1.4 per cent in for the period ending September.

Source: CNA/ek