Only 28 per cent of 117,500 newly created positions taken by local job seekers while layoffs rise
Mismatch of expectations leads to slow job take-up rate
Despite the National Jobs Council creating 117,500 jobs and training and attachment opportunities as of end-August, only 33,100 positions, or 28.17 per cent, were taken by local job seekers.
Even more sobering, only 6,650, or 15.2 per cent, of 43,750 openings for long-term jobs for professionals, managers, executives and technicians were taken by locals.
Why are these jobs going begging when retrenchments are rising because of Covid-19? From April to June, layoffs more than doubled to 8,130 compared with the first quarter.
The answer lies mainly in job matching or, to be more precise, a mismatch of expectations between job seeker and potential employer.
Take local car-sharing platform and tech solutions provider Tribecar's challenges in trying to hire locals with tech skills.
Its co-founder Adrian Lee told The New Paper: "If the candidates have similar merits, we would want to hire a Singaporean or permanent resident.
"But every local tech graduate wants to work for companies like Facebook and Amazon. If they can't get in there, then they aim for well-funded tech firms or the government sector.
"That leaves 99 per cent of Singapore businesses facing a drought for tech talent."
The Fair Consideration Framework dictates firms must advertise jobs on the MyCareersFuture.sg portal for at least 28 days before applying for a new Employment Pass or S Pass for a foreign candidate. Those found to be unfair in the selection process can be taken to task.
Mr David Leong, managing director of human resource firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said many such positions are in areas where locals may lack the required skills.
"IT roles generally have higher hurdle requirements and are not easy to place since skills are key in the roles," he said.
Both retrenched or new job seekers may not be suitable as "such skills cannot be portable" and thus they are "unlikely able to jump in and become immediately effective and productive".
Also, the older, better skilled and more experienced workers can afford to spend more time on job hunting, said Singapore University of Social Sciences associate professor of economics Walter Theseira.
"The choice for many retrenched Singaporeans will be... hoping to find a similar job at their last drawn or better pay," he said.
A Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spokesman said it is "natural" for mid-career job seekers to consider long and hard before making a switch as they may need to "step out of familiar comfort zones".
Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the matching of vacancies with job seekers is not a straightforward process, and the system will be improved.
Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Finance Minister, said the review includes looking at how the database systems available can be better used for job matching.
"And this is what the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres and other agencies will be doing," he added.
The SGUnited Skills Programme enables job seekers to acquire new industry-relevant skills and company attachments while its Mid-Career Pathways Programme gives employers and job seekers a chance to evaluate first-hand if the job and individual are a good fit.
Mr Leong said as long as "job seekers are willing to consider a switch... and to absorb some pay adjustments, there are opportunities for a rebound".
Mr Gabriel Sim, 49, did just that after losing his events and sales director job in July when his company restructured. He took a 50 per cent cut to take up a sales manager role in a smaller events company last month.
"It's better to be gainfully employed than being jobless," said the sole breadwinner with three children.
NeXT Career Consulting Group founder Paul Heng said some companies also take their time filling non-critical roles.
He added: "Some employers are looking for the perfect-fit candidate who meet every one of their hiring prerequisites."
MOM has encouraged employers to look beyond hiring the perfect candidate.
Said its spokesman: "We will need progressive employers who are prepared to give an opportunity to local job seekers who may not have the full set of skills to do the job from day one, but who can be trained up, instead of looking for candidates who can 'plug and play' immediately."