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Singapore market update - Antal International

Posted on from Antal International

Tremayne Elson identifies the hot sectors in Singapore, and outlines the challenges and opportunities that HR is currently facing.

How effective is the Singapore recruitment market?

Like many Asia-Pacific markets, Singapore is performing well. It currently ranks second after Switzerland in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013. And although recently-released statistics show the Singaporean economy contracted 1.5% in quarter 3 of 2012, the country’s professional job market is experiencing its highest recruitment levels in two years. The results of our latest hiring and firing survey, The Antal International Global Snapshot, show that 45% of companies are currently hiring at managerial level. 

What sectors are thriving?

While the economy on the whole is contracting slightly at the moment, some individual sectors are enjoying relatively healthy recruitment levels. Logistics firms and organisations engaged in oil and gas are performing well, with 77% and 72% respectively recruiting at top level. This can be attributed to a global boom in offshore drilling, which has created demand for professionals with experience in managing the exploration, extraction and refinery of fuel.

Another hot sector is IT, with 75% of firms planning to increase their recruitment activity in the coming months. This trend is reflected throughout the neighbouring regions like South Korea and Taiwan, as organisations invest in technological infrastructure to aid efficiency and growth.  

The FMCG sector remains consistent, and demand for executives is high, with 60% currently hiring. A spurt in consumption driven by a consistent rise in the size and wealth of the population is having a positive effect on this area.

The media industries are also showing high levels of activity and a large increase in demand for new talent is expected in the coming months. 25% of businesses in this area are hiring at senior level, but as many as 63% are expecting to be actively recruiting in the coming quarter. However, 50% of media companies are expecting to let managerial staff go within the next few months. Perhaps a sign that the best talent is being cherry-picked and only candidates with superior skill-sets and experience are thriving in this rapidly-changing environment. 

Banking & manufacturing – lacklustre

Singapore’s banking and financial services sectors are still showing little activity, with only 19% of organisations currently recruiting for managerial positions. Prospects seem to be brighter in the mid-term future – 25% will be hiring next quarter according to the Global Snapshot. Singapore’s Marina Bay area is emerging as the city’s new financial hub, with banks including Standard Chartered Plc and Barclays Plc taking bigger offices as they pursue Asia’s expanding ranks of millionaires. Singapore is emerging as Asia’s centre of wealth management and as the world economy regains stability, we predict that further opportunities will be created in this area.   

On the whole, manufacturing also seems to be contracting. Singapore is an open economy, which means it’s open to the vagaries of the trade cycle and anything that happens in developed economies outside Singapore has an impact on the exportation of goods and services. Although this sector is not performing as well as we would hope, the signs are positive that it will pick up as confidence returns to world markets.  

Challenges & opportunities for HR

Talent attraction

Some SMEs are finding it challenging to attract top candidates against the blue chip multinationals which dominate much of the recruitment space. Recruiters are addressing this obstacle by communicating to potential employees the benefits of working within a smaller team, and job seekers are now beginning to realise that career progression can be faster in smaller, more entrepreneurial firms.  

Skill shortages and staff retention

With such a high number of companies servicing the oil and gas, shipping, manufacturing and logistics industries, it can be particularly challenging to find candidates with managerial skills combined with the technical capabilities necessary to fill top positions. This scarcity is even more noticeable when an employer seeks sales management skills combined with a technical background.

Being an island nation, Singapore has a finite pool of domestic candidates who are generally highly qualified, but they also have high expectations, and staff turnover can be a problem. Singapore is home to a growing number of regional headquarters and the export of local talent ‘out into the field’ to more rapidly growing and larger markets like China  particularly Hong Kong and Shanghai  is an issue. In this tight domestic labour environment, expatriates can help bridge the gap to facilitate growth. Singapore’s population rose by 2.5% in 2012 with a non-resident workforce having the greatest impact on growth.   

The future looks bright

Singapore’s labour market is healthy, with strong employment creation and low unemployment levels. The hiccup in economic growth is largely due to the challenging global economic conditions which have had a negative effect on the export market, but we are hopeful that this will recover in 2013.  

Singapore has much to offer world markets. The country benefits from world-class infrastructure, and a strong focus on education and skills to equip its workforce for a rapidly changing global economy. As international markets regain stability, Singapore will continue to thrive by maintaining high levels of productivity and innovation. 

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