The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) recently released their Job Vacancies 2019 report.
According to the report, job opportunities were available across all sectors last year, with the spotlight on information & communications (ICT), public administration & education, professional services, financial & insurance services, and manufacturing sectors.
Forty-two per cent of vacancies were for newly created positions as a result of business expansion and formation, a proportion similar to 2018’s report.
Where do we stand in 2020?
The economic outlook for the rest of the year 2020, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, seems to be filled with challenges and uncertainty.
On 17 February 2020, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) downgraded its economic growth forecast to between -0.5 and 1.5 per cent, hinting at a possible recession. This was a further reduction from the already modest forecast in November 2019 of 0.5 and 1.0 per cent.
Just yesterday, the Singapore Government announced more stringent measures to combat the spread of the on-going pandemic.
Besides stricter advisories against international travel, the Government is imposing measures to limit out of work and school gatherings to 10 persons or lesser. Entertainment venues, where there is a high risk of transmission due to sustained close contact, will be closed and all events and mass gatherings are to be deferred.
The measures, while necessary, will impact sectors and jobs.
The Impact on the Job Market
In response to the Job Vacancies Report by MOM, NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay stated on a Facebook post on 20 March 2020 that the report was based on the previous year’s information, which has been superseded by events of the last two months.
He stated: “There were fewer vacancies in 2019 due to the uncertain economic conditions, although there remained job opportunities across sectors, particularly in the growth sectors.
“However, with COVID-19, we can expect vacancies to fall further this year.”
Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) Chief Executive Officer Mayank Parekh seconded Mr Tay’s sentiments.
He said: “The outlook remains bleak on a number of fronts. The front-line sectors – namely tourism, aviation, hospitality and retail – are unlikely to recover without some return to normalcy. This is unlikely to change in the short-term.
“Secondary sectors such as finance, construction and wholesale trade are likely to bear the brunt of the impact should the current situation persist.”
While Mr Tay believes that there could still be opportunities in sectors and firms that require more manpower, particularly those affected by labour supply disruptions.
He stated that the tripartite partners – namely the unions, employers and the Government – are exploring various ways to better match those who are unemployed or have been placed on reduced work hours to such opportunities.
He wrote: “It may require some of us to pick up some new skills or to make some difficult adjustments, but we should hold fast and steady and tide through this difficult period together.”
Mr Parekh deems that there are still opportunities in information technology (IT), healthcare, community services, remote work and learning platforms.
LinkedIn’s Asia Pacific Talent and Learning Solutions Vice-President Feon Ang said: “In light of the current situation, it’s important that businesses keep their workforce agile, so they can remain productive and stay afloat. This will also help those who work for them in the long run.
“At LinkedIn, we’re doing what we can to support both our business partners and professionals. We know many businesses have implemented work-from-home or split shifts, so we have put together some insights, best practices and resources on how to cope within the current environment.”
All three interviewees had a similar take on what had to be done during this bleak period.
Ms Ang stated: “We encourage organisations to continuously invest in their employees… Above all, we must remember that we’re all in this together.”
In view of the current situation, Mr Parekh’s advice is to remain optimistic and be open to taking on opportunities including “gig work” that could lead to more permanent options.
He said: “Employers will be on the lookout for talent that can show tenacity and resilience in these challenging times. Continue to build your portfolio of skills and experiences.
“Seek industry-wide recognised certifications to benchmark your competencies to differentiate yourself and show a track record to lifelong learning.”
Mr Tay concluded in his post: “We should use any downtime to continue upskilling our workforce to ensure that we all stay ready, relevant and resilient. The tripartite partners are stepping up efforts to help individuals reskill for new roles and prepare for the recovery.
“Employers and workers should make full use of these opportunities and enhanced funding and support to make all these happen.”