SINGAPORE: Both jobseekers and employers will have to be more flexible to allow for better job matching, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Thursday (Oct 24).
The minister's comments came after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released preliminary figures in its labour market report for the third quarter of 2019, which showed that the overall unemployment rate in Singapore had risen slightly in September from 2.2 per cent to 2.3 per cent.
"The increase in unemployment rates occurred when there were still vacancies available. This suggests some mismatch in the labour market," said MOM.
Mrs Teo mirrored this view in her comments on a Facebook post on Thursday, saying that the preliminary data "painted a mixed picture".
"Total employment growth was higher than the previous quarter and a year ago. But unemployment and retrenchments also inched up.
"Employment growth was fairly broad-based led by sectors such as Community, Social and Personal Services, Professional Services, and Information & Communications.
"Many vacancies remain," said Mrs Teo.
Mrs Teo said that this suggests "mismatches are widening".
"It could be jobseekers not having the skills to access available jobs or jobs being insufficiently attractive.
"Closing the gaps require both jobseekers and employers to be more open and flexible," the minister said.
Mrs Teo noted that jobseekers naturally prefer to return to past occupations or industries despite better opportunities possibly lying elsewhere.
To take advantage of such opportunities, some training and adjustment may be needed, but it has been "heartening" to see that thousands of jobseekers have successfully made the transition each year, with the help of Workforce Singapore (WSG), she said.
Meanwhile, employers may prefer those with the same functional or industry experience, but more have been willing to train and take in mid-career candidates, Mrs Teo highlighted.
"This has helped to raise employment rates of older Singaporeans and we are catching up with OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries," she said, pointing out that there are more than 100 Professional Conversion Programmes over 30 sectors.
Member of Parliament for West Coast GRC Patrick Tay also published a Facebook post commenting on the report on Thursday.
He said MOM's preliminary figures suggest that "structural challenges such as skills and jobs mismatches continue to be the main cause of employment in Singapore".
"We need to continue our efforts in training and supporting mature workers and PMEs as they are most vulnerable," said Mr Tay, who is also Assistant Secretary-General of NTUC.
Mr Tay said that the labour movement will accelerate its efforts to overcome structural mismatches.
"The labour movement will promote and encourage Pre-Emptive and Proactive up-skilling; re-skilling; second-skilling; deep skilling; and multi-skilling to help our workers stay ready, relevant and resilient."
He also said that employers should "cut costs to save jobs and not cut jobs to save costs".
"In the unfortunate event of a retrenchment, NTUC and our unions/union leaders will render their assistance and support to those affected.
"Companies and employers should observe the tripartite advisory on managing excess manpower and responsible retrenchment, render the necessary support to affected workers, and manage the layoff process responsibly and sensitively."