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Funeral workers wanted in Singapore: At least 800 job vacancies available over next few years

Faced with an ageing population, Singapore’s annual deaths are set to rise from about 24,000 in 2021 to 40,000 in 2040. 

03:45 Min
Singapore's funeral industry is looking to fill at least 800 vacancies over the next few years, amid an expected rise in demand for such services. Clara Lee reports. 

SINGAPORE: Singapore's funeral industry is looking to fill at least 800 vacancies over the next few years, amid an expected rise in demand for such services.

The country's annual deaths have been climbing steadily with an ageing population. They are set to nearly double from about 24,000 in 2021 to 40,000 in 2040, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Funeral firms have been looking to hire a new generation of funeral workers. In-demand positions include funeral directors and operations crew.

Passion Bereavement Care founder and funeral director Deborah Kang said most of her employees are recommended by other staff and even the bereaved families. 

The funeral services provider has grown its team by a third over the past few months, but the number of clients has outstripped its growth, tripling over the same period.

Competition for talent is stiff, with hundreds of funeral companies across Singapore looking to hire more workers. 

Some firms said they have relaxed their criteria for potential employees and are more open to taking in those exploring a mid-career change.

Casket Fairprice corporate development manager Rachael Tay said such a move has managed to help raise its headcount by about 50 to 60 per cent in the past year alone, “even though it does take a longer time to get such workers operationally ready”. 

NOVEL WAYS TO RETAIN TALENT

Adding to the industry's manpower woes is the stigma associated with working in the funeral business, observers said.

Nevertheless, funeral firms are looking at different ways to attract and retain talent, from having more work from home arrangements to implementing fewer standby shifts.

Direct Funeral managing director Jenny Tay highlighted the need to look after her employees’ well-being. 

"Through our line of work, we understand the importance of health. So recently, we also implemented yearly medical check-ups for our staff, to at least give them (a) peace of mind about their health,” she said.

The younger generation of workers prefer more stable career options, noted Ms Tay.

“We do have proper work-life balance, in terms of having proper shifts and rostering. 

“They do not have to be on a 24-hour standby. That’s a big perk. Being able to be aligned with their career preferences will help greatly moving forward.”

Despite a rise in the number of local job applicants for such roles, industry players said they are largely tapping on foreign talent to help fill up their vacancies.

RELYING ON FOREIGN WORKERS

The Association of Funeral Directors believes the local talent pool is not enough and needs to be supplemented by foreign workers to meet the higher demand.

However, Mr Hoo Hung Chye, the association’s executive director, said funeral services come under the service sector, where the number of foreign workers that can be hired in some skilled roles such as embalmers is limited by a tightened quota.

Mr Hoo, who is also the senior funeral director at the Singapore Funeral Services, urged the authorities to relax restrictions for funeral companies to hire more foreign workers. 

“We feel that there should be some leniency in terms of how we can get skilled labour to help our industry.”

Even though the industry is grappling with manpower constraints, those who are keen are coming forward. 

Mr Foo Yong Oon, 26, is among 10 new staff members who recently joined Passion Bereavement Care. He is part of the company’s logistics crew.

"This job is very meaningful, which makes me want to continue and get even better at it," he said.

Source: CNA/ca(ja)

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