SINGAPORE: Job vacancies in Singapore are expected to fall further this year given the "uncertainties in 2020", said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Friday (Mar 20).
Her comment followed the release of the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) job vacancies report for 2019, which shows the number of vacancies fell due to cautious hiring sentiments.
There were 52,900 job vacancies compared to 63,300 vacancies in 2018.
However, vacancies remained available across sectors, particularly in the growth sectors, said MOM.
"Job opportunities were mainly in information technology, healthcare, business development and sales," the report said.
In a Facebook post, Ms Teo said the findings have been overtaken by the "evolving COVID-19 outbreak and a global economic slowdown", adding that the results were "no surprise".
"There were fewer vacancies overall in 2019 but still many opportunities in the growth sectors. However, given the uncertainties in 2020, we expect vacancies to fall further," she added.
About 42 per cent of the vacancies in 2019 were newly created positions as a result of business formation and expansion, said MOM, similar to 2018.
Growth sectors, such as ICT, professional services, financial and insurance services, wholesale trade and healthcare have above average proportion of vacancies for newly created positions.
There was demand for software, web and multimedia developers and systems analysts, as well as commercial and marketing sales executives, business development managers, nurses and healthcare assistants.
For 51 per cent of PMET vacancies, such as in software, web and multimedia developers and commercial and marketing sales executives, employers placed greater emphasis on skills, work experience and attitude, rather than academic qualifications.
For these vacancies, the lack of specialised skills was also a common reason mentioned by employers, said MOM in a press release on Friday.
For non-PMET positions, it was usually due to a mismatch in wage expectations, the ministry added.
Employers are also placing more emphasis on applicants’ skills, work experience and attitude, beyond academic qualifications, it said.
Hiring sentiments have weakened which means job seekers will have a more challenging time, said Ms Teo.
“Therefore, the focus must be to help as many people as possible stay in their current jobs. We can then direct job matching support to those who need it most,” she added.
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"This is similar to our approach in handling the public health crisis – keep most people away from hospitals, so healthcare workers have the capacity to focus on treating those who have more serious conditions."
This is also why the S$4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package announced earlier this year had a strong focus on saving jobs and protecting workers, Ms Teo added.
Commenting on the report, she said that while the findings have been overtaken by current events, some of the other findings are still relevant.
She highlighted that the job-skills mismatch remains an issue that needs to be tackled.
“During such times when business is down, we want to work with employers to reskill and upskill their workers so that they are ready for new job opportunities when the economy recovers,” she said.
NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said in a Facebook post that people should expect vacancies to fall this year because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
He noted that the Government has stepped up support for businesses to "retain, recruit and re-skill workers for new jobs", adding that the Stabilisation and Support Package will help workers retain their jobs and upgrade their skills.
"However, with what is happening as well as what is anticipated to happen, we will need more ammunition and stimulus to ensure we stay afloat and resilient," he said, adding that he looked forward to details about the second government support package that is being prepared.
There could be opportunities in sectors and firms that require more manpower, such as those affected by supply disruptions, the assistant secretary-general said.
"As such, we are exploring various ways to better connect/match those who are unemployed or have been placed on reduced work hours to such opportunities," he added.
“This is a tough time. MOM is here to help. Our lines are sometimes overwhelmed, as are our officers. I seek your kind patience as we try our best to respond to everyone who has reached out," the minister said.
The report uses data mostly taken from an annual job vacancy survey conducted by the Manpower Research and Statistics Department, covering both the private and public sectors.
A total of 15,290 establishments employing 2,102,600 employees responded to the survey, yielding a response rate of 86.4 per cent.