Wednesday, 29 January 2014

More job vacancies in 2013 than the year before, mainly in services sector

Front-line sales assistants top list of wanted workers
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 28 Jan 2014

WANTED: sales assistants, waiters and cleaners.

These three jobs were among those with the most vacancies last year, when overall openings grew nearly 10 per cent from 2012 amid a labour squeeze, according to yesterday's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) annual report on job vacancies.

Last September, which is representative of the year according to the report, there were 61,900 vacancies, up 9.7 per cent from that of a year ago. One in four positions, making up the largest share, was for service and sales workers. These include 3,510 openings for shop sales assistants, putting them at the top of the wanted list.

Waiters were also highly sought after, with 2,190 vacancies, while there were 2,010 cleaner positions in offices and other establishments available.

As for the professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) segment, the highest number of job openings was for teaching professionals, with 2,380 places available.

Four in 10 of all openings went unfilled for six months or longer. But this problem was far more acute for non-PMET positions, with more than half staying unfilled for that long, compared with just 17 per cent for PMET ones.

Shop sales assistant, cleaner, and waiter were the top three occupations with the most long- term vacancies as each had about 1,500 positions staying open for at least six months.

And they were also the most difficult to fill with Singaporeans and permanent residents, a common trend among "lower-end" openings.

Overall, local hires were deemed hard to find for 90 per cent of such vacancies, compared with just 36 per cent in the PMET sector. The top reasons for this, said employers, were unattractive pay and the strenuous work.

In its report, the MOM also noted that non-PMET positions were staying unfilled "amid the moderation in inflow of foreign workers, especially those on the S Pass and work permit".

These are work passes for middle- and less-skilled foreign workers respectively. Quotas for both passes were cut in July last year for the service sector.

And with levies for both groups continuing to rise this year, UOB economist Francis Tan warns that the labour situation could get tougher yet.

Barclays economist Joey Chew also expects front-line service positions to remain hard to fill this year. "This is a chronic demand- and-supply issue in Singapore," she said, adding that it can be addressed by re-designing such jobs to attract locals.

The foreign labour restrictions, coupled with the reluctance of locals to go into front-line sales, are reasons why the retail sector is so strapped for staff, said Mr R. Dhinakaran, managing director of Jay Gee Melwani Group, which distributes fashion brands. "We are trying to bring in more housewives, for example," he said. "But still, we have plenty of vacancies."

More find jobs last year amid tight labour market
Total employment up by 134,900; locals filled 60% of the jobs
By Joanna Seow

MORE people in Singapore found jobs last year amid a tight labour market.

Total employment grew by an estimated 134,900 in 2013, up from 129,100 the year before, according to a report released by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) yesterday.

Over 60 per cent of these jobs went to locals, that is Singaporeans and permanent residents, as curbs on foreign manpower continued to bite.

Most of the employment growth came in the services sector, followed by construction and manufacturing - although the latter two also laid off more workers than in 2012.

All this meant that yearly unemployment fell to the lowest in a decade, according to preliminary figures. The jobless rate was 1.9 per cent overall and 2.9 per cent for citizens.

The unemployed also needed less time to find a job than before. A separate MOM report showed that those who had been seeking work for at least 15 weeks made up 31.9 per cent of unemployed residents in June 2013, down from 33.7 per cent the year before.

Meanwhile, earnings also went up last year. Among citizens, the median worker made $3,480 as at June 2013, up 7.1 per cent from the year before.

After accounting for 2.4 per cent inflation, median incomes still grew 4.6 per cent - much stronger than the 1.2 per cent seen in 2012.

Looking at the past five years, real median income for residents, after adjusting for inflation, has grown 9.8 per cent now, or about 2 per cent a year.

Workers in the bottom-fifth kept pace, their incomes growing 8.7 per cent.

This wage growth is likely to continue for this year, said Credit Suisse economist Michael Wan yesterday. But he warned that without the drop in certificate of entitlement prices that pulled down inflation last year, real incomes may not rise as much.

Companies are also likely to pass on some rising wage costs to consumers, raising the price of goods and services, he added.

Economists cautioned that the persistently tight labour market will continue to be a worry for businesses.

"Firms might be forced to employ workers who are less skilful, but for higher wages," said National University of Singapore labour economist Shandre Thangavelu.

CIMB economist Song Seng Wun said he expects "more carrot-and-stick measures and the fine-tuning of prevailing incentives to get companies to climb the productivity ladder".

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