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Hiring slowed in Q2 of 2020 but 'did not come to a standstill': MOM survey

Hiring slowed in Q2 of 2020 but 'did not come to a standstill': MOM survey

Office workers at Raffles Place in Singapore. (File photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Hiring slowed in the second quarter of 2020 but did not come to a standstill, according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) Manpower Research and Statistics Department.

Despite weaker hiring sentiments, "a good number" of retrenched workers re-entered employment. About seven in 10 retrenched workers who re-entered employment did so within a month, said MOM in its latest jobs situation report on Monday (Sep 7).

The majority of those who were retrenched and found new jobs did not experience "sizeable pay cuts", defined by MOM as an income decline of at least 5 per cent.


The observations were based on a study of 2,160 residents who were retrenched in the first quarter of 2020, using the same methodology as a study on retrenched workers in Q1 of 2018.

The 2020 study showed that 39 per cent had re-entered employment by June 2020, compared to the 47 per cent who did the same by June 2018.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing address the media during a Zoom press conference on Sep 7, 2020. (Photo: MTI)

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who spoke about the jobs report at a virtual press conference on Monday, said that this was "encouraging". 

"It was a drop, but it didn't fall off the cliff. So there was still hiring activities going on, which I think is encouraging," she said. 

"Now we are continuing to monitor this group of workers to see what happens next ... the point to keep in mind is that even in good times, which 2018 was, it does take a while, for retrenched workers to get back into employment."

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Professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) and those in their 30s and 40s were more likely to have found jobs, said the study.

About half of the retrenched workers who re-entered employment have transferrable skills that allowed them to switch to a different industry while 60 per cent of those who found a job did not take a "sizeable pay cut".

A chart showing the occupation and industry change among residents who were retrenched in the first quarter of 2020 and found employment. (Image: Ministry of Manpower)

These findings suggested that hiring slowed in the second quarter of 2020 but did not come to a standstill, said MOM.

"Despite the weakness in the employment market, majority who found jobs did so relatively quickly with modest impact to salary," said MOM.

Mrs Teo said that another factor that helped retrenched workers find work again quickly was their willingness to move into a new industry.

"So if you cast your net a bit wider, look beyond the sectors that you're familiar with the job opportunities may be there," she said.

To help companies retain workers during this period, the Government launched the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), which was introduced at the first budget in February. More than S$16 billion of JSS payouts have been disbursed, benefitting more than 2 million local workers in more than 150,000 firms, said the manpower ministry.

"With the JSS extended till Mar 2021, most businesses will receive wage support for 17 months to help them retain as many workers as possible," said MOM.

Another S$1 billion was also set aside to support businesses to hire locals under the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) scheme, which provides salary support to help firms that continue to do well to bring forward their hiring plans and grow their local workforce from September 2020 to February 2021.

With the extension of the JSS, MOM said this was a "major boost" for job creation for locals.

"However, we recognise that despite companies’ best efforts and the coverage from JSS and JGI, some employers may still need to make adjustments to their businesses to stay viable, including conducting retrenchments," said the manpower ministry.

"The Government will take active steps to ensure that workers who faced displacements would be able to find alternative employment and get back on their feet quickly."

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With global travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19, MOM said the tourism sector had to "pivot quickly" to capture new business opportunities while preparing for an eventual recovery.

Many employers have tried to retain workers by redesigning jobs and training existing employees to take on new roles.

In February 2020, Workforce Singapore (WSG) rolled out two new reskilling programmes under the tourism sector as part of the COVID-19 support measures for businesses and workers. 

These include the Job Redesign Reskilling programme for the hotel industry and the Digital Marketing Reskilling programme for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE), Attractions and Tour and Travel sectors.

"These served to minimise potential retrenchment and ensure that the hard-hit tourism sector would have the skilled manpower they need to meet business demand when it returns," said MOM.

As of end-August, more than 1,400 workers from about 100 hotels and tourism companies were, or are being, retrained and redeployed to new or "higher-value" roles.

Employers in the tourism sector can also tap on the Enhanced Training Support Package to reskill and upskill their workforce. A total of 28,000 training places have been filled.


(Front row, left to right) Ms Kwee Wei-Lin, president of Singapore Hotel Association, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Mr Lee Seow Hiang, CEO of Changi Airport Group, with other members of industry at Marina Bay Sands on Sep 7, 2020. (Photo: MTI)

Mrs Teo said that, contrary to expectations, jobs in the tourism sector have not "dried up".

"Although the hiring demand in tourism was lower than before, but in the last six months, we found that there were some businesses in tourism that were trying very hard to adapt," she said.

For example, with work from home being the default, some hotels started offering packages for individuals to work from a hotel with easy access to amenities.

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There were also opportunities for tour operators to adjust their domestic tours to include topics that attract Singaporeans, said MOM.

With virtual events becoming more common, the MICE sector also started seeing a rise in alternative solutions such as exploring hybrid events and using technology to host meetings and conferences.

"There are more than 220 companies in the tourism sector that are hiring, and they include companies like Marina Bay Sands, Capella, Raffles Town Club and Seletar Country Club," Mrs Teo said.

Some work pass holders going home during the pandemic, including Malaysian workers who were affected by Malaysia's movement control order, has contributed to the hiring, she said.

There is also a "healthy number" of job opportunities created because businesses need to "pivot". 

For example, there is now a demand for systems analysts in the hotel industry as they switch to engaging customers and holding meetings through virtual engagement.

Mrs Teo added: "We know that it is not easy for job seekers, especially if they were retrenched from a previous role. 

"It is not easy to transit into new industries if you're not familiar with those industries if you think that you do not have networks. This is why WSG continues to organise many events to outreach to job seekers."

Since April, more than 2,400 job, traineeship, company attachment and training opportunities have been made available, offered by more than 220 companies in the tourism sector.

About 41 per cent of opportunities in jobs, traineeships and company attachments are in PMET roles. 

Chart showing the SGUnited job, traineeship, company attachment and training opportunities in the tourism sector. (Image: Ministry of Manpower)

Between April to July 2020, more than 900 individuals found jobs or took on new roles in tourism through the SGUnited Jobs and Skills programme.

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About 87 per cent were mid-career individuals who took part in career conversion programmes for new hires or to reskill existing workers for new jobs. About 51 per cent of these individuals were aged 40 and above.

Fresh and recent graduates, as well as mid-career job seekers who lack relevant experience or skills, but have a keen interest to enter the tourism sector can tap on traineeships or company attachments under the SGUnited Traineeships and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathway programmes.

They can also take tourism courses under the SGUnited Skills programme to undergo training to take on certain roles. Courses in areas such as digital marketing, social media marketing and business analytics are also available, which will better prepare job seekers to take on new roles in the tourism sector, said the ministry.

"MOM and WSG will continue to support job seekers and workers, and match them to meaningful opportunities," it said.

To help job seekers navigate opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, WSG conducted 50 outreach and engagement activities across Singapore in August.

This allowed 12,000 job seekers to meet hiring companies and obtain career guidance to improve their job search.

The next SGUnited Jobs and Skills Info Kiosks will be held at the Lot One Shoppers’ Mall and Causeway Point from Sep 11 to Sep 13, 10.30am to 8.30pm. The SGUnited Jobs and Skills Series will be held at Oasis Terrace @ Punngol on Sep 25 and Sep 26, 10am to 7pm.

Source: CNA/lk(mi)


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