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Contract work on the rise here

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Many temporary positions are extended in Singapore, notes recruitment agency Robert Walters

Contract employment is more attractive than one might think, with the option gaining traction among professionals in Singapore.

In an exclusive interview with The Business Times, chief executive Robert Walters of the eponymous global recruitment agency revealed that the firm plans to expand its contract line of business in Singapore.

"There's an expansion in Singapore of the contract market, which is traditionally seen in a lot of countries as a second choice - you can't get a permanent job, so you may do temporary work.

"But increasingly, and particularly in areas such as project management of technology, it's becoming far more popular as a route," said Mr Walters, who has headed the consultancy for more than three decades.

He said that contrary to the common perception of temporary roles, contractors can often be hired at senior management levels with an attractive pay.

On an individual level, the contract model affords people the flexibility to better control their work-life balance and the leeway to upskill and make themselves more attractive to employers, he added.

According to Robert Walters' South-east Asia managing director Toby Fowlston, Singapore's contracting market has grown significantly in recent years. More candidates want to take on these roles as well.

Contracting constituted 34 per cent of Robert Walters Singapore's net fee income last year; from 2012 to 2016, the business segment grew 56 per cent. The firm declined to provide growth projections.

In particular, the Singapore branch has seen high demand for contractors in the regulatory and compliance sector, as well as in project management and architecture of technology.

The Robert Walters Global Salary Survey 2017 forecast that contractors in the local banking and financial services can expect salary increments of 7 to 15 per cent this year.

The survey also noted that as some firms in the supply chain and procurement sector undergo mergers and acquisitions, the demand for process improvement and project managers on a contract basis will rise.

Other multinational recruitment firms have seen similar findings in their surveys.

Hays said that 65 per cent of Singapore employers used temporary workers or contractors from a recruitment agency last year.


Meanwhile, Michael Page found that the top three benefits received by contract workers are annual leave (68 per cent), medical coverage (57 per cent) and completion bonuses (34 per cent).

Contracting currently constitutes 31 per cent of Robert Walters' global business, based on net fee income - a figure that has remained consistent over the past five years.

Mr Walters noted that hiring contract workers can help organisations grapple with the strict staff retention laws that exist in some countries, such as France.

In these cases, it is more realistic for the company to hire someone on a temporary basis if their needs might quickly change, he said.

Mr Fowlston acknowledged that contract work does come with a degree of instability due to its transient nature.

However, in this market, taking up contract offers would be better than waiting for a permanent role, he added.

Mr Fowlston noted that many contract terms - typically lasting six months or more - are extended.

The Singapore office is also seeing more contract roles being converted into permanent ones.

This article was published in The Business Times yesterday.