The Job Market: Singapore vs Hong Kong

Recently the Singapore Ministry of Manpower released its latest Labour Market Survey for Q1 providing some interesting insights into the economic situation.  The headlines were that the job market remains weak and that longer job searches are more common for the “PMET” group of workers (professionals, managers, executives and technicians).  So today I wanted to take a closer look at these figures and see how these compare to the city state’s closest economic rival Hong Kong. 


Job Vacancies


Unfortunately for Singapore the news on the number of vacancies in the market was very poor.  Vacancies declined quarter on quarter by 17% from 53,800 in Q4 of 2016 to 44,500 in Q1 of this year.  Even taking into account the cyclical slowdown in the jobs market we typically experience in the first quarter, it is still a drop of 12% from the same quarter in 2016.  Indeed you would have to go back as far as 2013 to see similar levels of jobs in the market while there is a definite downward trend since the peak in October 2014.



Jobs Vacancies - Hong Kong v Singapore


What I found most interesting is when you plot the Singapore vacancies against Hong Kong over the same period, you can see that Singapore (in blue) and Hong Kong (in black) track very similarly, with almost the same peaks and troughs since the beginning of 2013.  Even though Hong Kong’s economy is more closely linked with that of China and Singapore with the broader South East Asia economy, the implication is that with globalisation the two economies are experiencing the same macroeconomic effects.  There are more jobs in total in Hong Kong (67,141 as of Q1 of this year, shown on the right axis) which is reflective of the larger population in the Special Administrative Region.


What was interesting was that both locations experienced a slight increase in jobs in Q3 which was a little unexpected especially given the typical peak in jobs traditionally coming in April to July of any given year.  While we are not economic commentators by a long way, we suspect that this increase was due to the global effects of the US Presidential Elections and the UK Brexit Referendum.  Our view is that the markets don’t care which party wins, but rather that with any public vote, what it does provide the wider economy with is the business confidence to go ahead with new product launches/new projects/new hires and entry into new markets.  We speculate that we may see a slight increase for Q2 of 2017 with the French Presidential Elections and the UK General Elections having taken place.



Unemployment – Hong Kong v Singapore


Singapore’s unemployment rate stayed firm at 2.2% which reflects the ongoing high levels of employment in the Singapore economy while in Hong Kong the unemployment rate also remained static, be it at a marginally higher level of 3.2%.  Unemployment in both territories has remained very stable for a number of years with little deviation from the current levels.






So while the jobs markets in both Hong Kong and Singapore are experiencing declines, the good news is that unemployment levels remain firm.  This implies that for active job seekers it will be more difficult to secure new opportunities as we continue through 2017 and competition will be definitely be stiffer.  Additionally, as Singapore has experienced with the PMETs group and an increase in the long term unemployment rate for residents from 0.7% to 0.8%, the time taken to secure a new role will take longer. 


Overall though, this does reflect very much what we have been experiencing at Elliott Scott across both Singapore and Hong Kong.  Last year we saw lower volumes of jobs in both locations and a general “tightening” in market conditions over the past year and indeed we saw a slight increase in jobs in Q3 of last year when both markets had the unexpected increase.   Currently though we are experiencing higher demands across both territories with clients going to market and hiring headcount over the last few months in Q2.  Clients are also struggling to find the talent, so even though the amount of roles is down, the talent pool also feels a little thin, most likely due to more specific demands being made for job profiles. The main roles we have been looking for have been generalist/Business Partner roles as well as Talent and Leadership but less so for other centres of excellence.


If you would like to discuss the economy in Singapore further, please get in touch with me at 

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