Global Spotlight on Singapore

Competition for staff in this tiger economy is fierce, boosted by mobile technology and legislation that favours locals

April 2014 | By Mun Wai Wong


Competition for staff in this tiger economy is fierce, boosted by mobile technology and legislation that favours locals

The Singapore jobs market is booming, with job boards such as generalist job board experiencing a rise in both job applications and vacancies. Unemployment in Singapore is just 1.9% and the Singapore economy is growing by 4.1% a year.

According to Sheldon Fernandez, general manager of JobsDB Singapore and Malaysia: “The biggest challenge with online recruitment in Singapore is attracting quality candidates.”

Lim Der Shing, regional managing director CareerBuilder, adds: “IT and engineering, finance professionals, HR professionals and sales staff are always in demand.”

In this fiercely competitive market for candidates, job boards have responded by launching mobile platforms. Both the CareerBuilder-owned, which has 800,000 users, and JobsDB say they have seen significant rises in mobile activity by jobseekers. Lim says 20% of JobsCentral’s traffic and 15% of its applications come from its mobile platforms, up from virtually nothing three years ago. 

Similarly, as of August 2013, JobsDB saw a 256% year-on-year growth in mobile site visits. “The increase in the adoption of mobile technology for streamlining recruitment is dramatically increasing the speed at which employers and jobseekers communicate, creating a vastly more competitive landscape,” says Fernandez.

If Singaporean jobseekers are keen to adopt new technology in their job search activity, the take-up of another non-traditional technology, video CVs, has been starkly different. “We have not implemented them because we do not see strong take-up from jobseekers or employers,” says Lim.

Singapore is a small city, so travelling to interviews is easy, plus people may not have suitable equipment or know how to use video CVs, he explains. “All these factors have led to video interviews not being widespread in Singapore and South-East Asia,” Lim adds.

This sentiment is echoed by Erman Tan, chairman of the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI), the only not-for-profit professional HR body in Singapore, which represents more than 3,000 HR professionals.

Tan says that, while applicants in the media and creative industries may adopt video CVs, traditional CVs continue to be used. Tan says: “Typically, it is still a conventional approach, where they still want a proper document because the HR community in Singapore is still quite traditional.”

As well as keeping an eye out for how technology such as the video CV is influencing the recruitment landscape, Singapore’s job boards must all face up to the challenge of forthcoming legislation. From 1 August, new rules, in the form of the Fair Consideration Framework, kick in. Introduced by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, this requires employers to consider Singaporeans fairly for all job opportunities.

Under the framework, if an employer cannot find a suitable Singapore national, once they have offered a position to a foreigner they can apply to the Ministry of Labour for an employment pass (EP). This is a work pass for foreign professionals working in managerial, executive or specialised jobs. 

EP holders are at the higher end of the wage range. As of January this year, new applicants must earn at least SG$3,300 (£1,580) a month, up from $3,000 “in line with rising salaries”. Below this salary, employers can apply for a lower category employment pass, such as a work permit that is issued to unskilled foreign workers. 

“We are likely to witness a sharp increase in demand for local talent and a focus on employee retention strategies as employers continue to try to retain their staff,” says Fernandez.

As part of the framework, all firms making an EP application must first advertise job vacancies on a new jobs bank or job board administered by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, a body tasked with training and skills development. SHRI’s Tan says this has raised concerns in the recruitment industry that the new job board that is due to go ‘live’ in the middle of 2014 could “slow down the recruitment process”. However, countering this, to widen their search, firms are allowed to advertise jobs concurrently on other platforms and websites.

“We have given our feedback as an industry and we now need to work with the government to make sure it becomes a win-win feature of the recruiting industry,” says Lim.

Key indicators

The Singapore government estimates 2014 GDP growth will be between 2% and 4%

The Ministry of Trade and Industry has said that the Singapore economy grew by 4.1% in 2013, above the advanced estimate of 3.7%

Mun Wai Wong

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