Monday 28 November 2011

The jobs that Singaporeans shun

Low pay, weekend shifts and awkward working hours are main turn-offs
By Jalelah Abu Baker & Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2011

WITH their modest wages and unsociable weekend shifts, they are the jobs that Singaporeans shun.

Waiting tables, cleaning and working in telesales or as a retail or warehouse assistant are the least popular positions among citizens, 10 recruitment agencies told The Straits Times.

Workers continue to turn such jobs down despite a recent government bid to encourage firms to hire more Singaporeans rather than rely on foreigners.

Their main reasons for shunning these jobs are that they pay too little or involve awkward working hours.

'Singaporeans don't like to come back to work during the weekends or do shift work,' said consultant Kristen Lee of recruitment agency Kelly Services. 'Salary-wise, they can't accept the rates as well.'

Last month, the Government beefed up guidelines on fair employment practices after it emerged that certain firms had been deliberately hiring foreigners over suitable locals.

Employers were told to make sure job advertisements were open to Singaporeans, work with educational institutions and recruitment agencies to attract citizens and develop skills of their local staff members so they can take up higher-end positions.

But recruitment agencies and companies said that while they are willing to hire Singaporeans and give them priority, a handful of jobs are consistently shunned.

Only a minority take up these positions, said Ms Lee. It is hard to find citizens who do not mind low pay with little career advancement.

She said that even Institute of Technical Education graduates have high expectations these days. Many continue studying for a diploma to upgrade themselves.

Mr David Ang, executive director of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, said: 'The education level of Singaporeans has gone up, and so have their expectations. Also, parents invest in their children and expect them to take up respectable jobs.'

Ms Wong Shin Shin, human resources manager of Halcon Primo Logistics in Jurong, said her company has struggled to hire locals to work as warehouse assistants, even though they are paid about 30 per cent more than foreigners.

According to a salary guide by Kelly Services, warehouse assistants earn up to $1,700 a month.

Ms Wong said her company has put out job advertisements for three months, but the response has been poor.

'Locals feel that it is a low-level, manual job, and that they have no prospects,' she said. 'Some locals come in, work for one day and then walk off. They say it is not the kind of job they want to do.'

Mr Jeffrey Ng, who owns Cleanex Maintenance Services at Orchard Road, said it is hard to find Singaporeans willing to work as cleaners.

'They demand better conditions, a five-day week and a location near their homes,' he said. 'It is difficult to accommodate. On top of it, sometimes, they don't want to do toilet washing. They want easy jobs with high pay.'

Mr Ng has about 190 cleaning staff, about 5 per cent of whom are from China. They earn between $800 and $1,200 a month.

Counsellor Sheena Jebal has seen companies offer jobs to unemployed people who are picky and find excuses to decline them.

She said one employer was offering $2,000 instead of the market rate of $1,300 to hire a Singaporean as a lorry driver to deliver pastries. But there were no takers, said Ms Jebal of non-profit group NuLife Care and Counselling.

One unemployed man asked whether he could start later because he had a function to attend.

Another said he had no money to take public transport to work. The firm offered to give him an extra $50 a day for a week, but he declined.

Ms Jebal said other reasons for Singaporeans turning down jobs include the distance they would have to travel to their workplaces and reporting to work early.

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