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Wanted: Nurses, IT professionals - but why aren't these jobs filled?

Wanted: Nurses, IT professionals - but why aren't these jobs filled?

File photo of a nurse tending to a patient at a hospital in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: The rising demand for IT and healthcare professionals in recent years became more acute in 2020 as the pandemic accelerated digital transformation and hiked demand for healthcare, according to findings from a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) report released on Friday (Apr 9).

These jobs remained hard to fill mainly due to a mismatch in skills and job experience, said the Jobs Vacancies Report 2020.

Last year, 27 per cent of job vacancies were unfilled for six months or more, down slightly from the previous year. The report found that non-PMET vacancies were harder to fill than PMET (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) vacancies, but the challenges faced by employers when filling these vacancies were different.

READ: 4 in 10 vacancies last year were for jobs that can be done remotely: MOM report

For PMET vacancies, employers pointed to the lack of necessary skills and work experience, especially in positions that need specialised technical knowledge, such as software, web and multimedia developers, as well as systems analysts.

Nurses were also highly in demand, and employers said there was fierce competition from other prospective employers. Some positions were hard to fill due to workers’ preference for more regular work arrangements.

For non-PMET jobs, the issues were mainly related to their working conditions, such as physically strenuous work, unattractive pay and working on weekends or public holidays.

The top PMET positions unfilled for at least six months were nursing professionals. For non-PMET positions, it was cleaners.

READ: Singapore's sharpest fall in employment in more than 20 years borne by non-resident workers: MOM


Among IT jobs, roles such as software, web and multimedia developers, as well as systems analysts, were the most sought after in 2020, and their demand has risen in the recent five years, the report said. 

Employers were prepared to pay more to attract candidates with the right skills, and the minimum salary employers were willing to offer increased to S$5,000 last year.

There was also a rise in hiring analytics professionals, such as market research professionals and data scientists, and cybersecurity professionals.

As businesses pivoted and looked for new opportunities due to the huge shifts triggered by the pandemic, business development managers and sales executives were also much in demand.

Beyond the pandemic, the healthcare sector is expected to expand, with the growing healthcare needs of Singapore's ageing population, said the report.

IN FOCUS: After COVID-19, where are the Singapore economy, workforce headed?

Besides nurses, medical and pathology laboratory technicians saw significant growth in job vacancies over the last five years, with a greater need for clinical testing, the report said.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that one trend to note in the report is that more job openings (45 per cent) were for newly created positions, due to business expansion, restructuring and job redesign.

"At the same time, it also points to the possible challenges that employers faced. With newly created positions, employers naturally look for new skills which are usually not those that their workers already have," she said following a visit to Eurasia F&B.

"If many employers are looking for the same new skills, then it stands to reason that these employers will find it quite difficult to fill those vacancies."


The share of vacancies that remain unfilled after six months is on a "downward trend", Mrs Teo added.

"This means that the job market has a certain level of efficiency, and we are able to match employers and job seekers. It also shows that the programmes we put in place have helped reduce the number of vacancies that remain unfilled for a long time," she said.

She said that job seekers will increasingly need to reskill, while employers need to re-design non-PMET roles and reskill their workers.

Citing Eurasia F&B as an example of how jobs can be redesigned, Mrs Teo said that the food company cut down on back-of-house operations at their restaurants, and built up factory capacity so that they could supply restaurants with ingredients that have been sliced and processed.

READ: 130,000 locals hired by 27,000 firms under Jobs Growth Incentive in 3 months: MOM

READ: Budget 2021: S$24 billion to transform businesses and workers over next three years

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo (right foreground) speaks with an employee at Eurasia F&B. (Photo: Ministry of Manpower)

"By investing in their backend capabilities to make operations leaner and more efficient, they were able to make the jobs of their workers easier while sustaining business growth," she said.

She added that the company had tapped on the Job Redesign Reskilling Programme to reskill five service crew workers to take on enhanced job scopes, and that these workers also got pay raises and a "more pleasant work environment".

Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Singapore Productivity Centre said that the revamped and renamed Job Redesign Reskilling Programme for Food Services Assistants will help existing frontline and operational workers to take on higher value jobs such as service ambassadors and kitchen technicians.

A total of 400 existing workers are expected to be upskilled to take on enhanced jobs through the programme over the next two years.

"Employers in food services face a perennial manpower crunch that is exacerbated by the pandemic and border closures," said the agencies in a news release.

"In order to attract and retain their local workforce, they need to transform and create quality jobs with improved wages and working conditions, which in turn helps reduce their reliance on foreign manpower."

Last year, WSG helped more than 6,500 workers and 300 employers from sectors such as hotel, retail, air transport and food services through a range of Job Redesign Reskilling Programmes, said Mrs Teo.

Source: CNA/hm


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