How is the Job Market in Singapore?
With Chinese New Year over, we are now well and truly in the midst of bonus season, which means that we’re approaching the busiest time of year for recruiters. Candidates will soon start looking out for new opportunities and we at Elliott Scott are frequently asked the question posed in the title: “how is the job market?”
Job Vacancies Are Up
The short answer is that, in Singapore, the job market is slightly better. Q4 2016 job vacancies saw a modest increase from Q3, with a rise from 50,500 to 53,800, which was quite curious given that we usually see a drop off in vacancies over this period. While this is still down on the same period in 2015, when the number of vacancies stood at 60,000, there is generally a more positive sentiment in the market place which has continued into 2017.
Certainly, from an Elliott Scott perspective we’ve had a continuous flow of jobs in the first two months of the year, with the HR generalist and compensation & benefits functions seeing the most activity. While the majority of the movement is at the mid to junior end of the market we are starting to see some senior roles coming through which is another positive sign as these typically don’t start appearing until slightly later in the year.
From an industry perspective, banking continues to be slow, with more opportunities in the insurance and asset management sectors when it comes to financial services. We are also seeing continued activity in professional services, pharmaceuticals, IT and e-commerce and expect this to continue through 2017. Teofilus Ponniah, Senior HR Director, Singapore and Malaysia at DHL meanwhile shared that the logistics sector is seeing an increase in opportunities as larger and medium sized multinationals look for ways to manage their supply chain costs across the region. He also added that there is a noticeable increase in niche supply chain focused groups in various international search firms.
Singapore continues to enjoy low levels of unemployment, with the rate increasing ever so slightly from 2.1% to 2.2%. Crucially there are now 91 jobs for every 100 unemployed persons, showing that the market is still tight.
Redundancies also rose marginally from 4,220 in Q3 to 5,300 in Q4, however I suspect with the introduction of recent MoM legislation that these may just be being better reported and this should be taken into consideration when comparing redundancy numbers for the next couple of quarters.
While I usually focus on labour market data, I was rather interested in the inflation rate in Singapore. For the first time since the end of 2014, we actually moved out of negative inflation, with the rate currently standing at 0.2%. While this figure itself isn’t particularly jaw dropping I believe it is a sign, though mild, that the economy is starting to show some green shoots. Nevertheless it’s quite startling to see that Singapore was in negative inflation for almost two and a half years.
With almost zero levels of inflation over the last few months, this does mean that anyone receiving a wage rise does enjoy the full value of the increase. From speaking with our clients we are hearing that anecdotally, wage rises appear to be in the range of 3 to 4.5%. Kar Ning Ho, Consultant at Willis Towers Watson shared that in their 2016 Asia Pacific Salary Budget Report Q3 that wages in Singapore would rise about 4% across all employee categories in 2017 and the trend has been consistent over the past five (5) years – below the regional projected salary increase (5.9%), and certainly it appears that we are on course to reach that figure. Companies in the banking industry are projecting lowest salary increase (3.0%), followed by Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) industry (3.5%) – however, ENR industry has the highest growth in salary increase in 2017 (from 1.5% in 2016 to 3.5% in 2017). In contrast, companies in the insurance industry are projecting the highest salary increase (4.5%).
It certainly seems like the economy is gathering a little bit of momentum but there still remains challenges both within the general business arena and in the job market. The number of vacancies is still significantly lower than in 2015 but there definitely reasons for optimism to be had. So while Singapore isn’t out of the woods by some way, there remains a definite positive impetus.