Part-timers’ pay higher than pre-Covid-19 levels as travel, festivities return in full swing
Part-timers were more sought after during the year end than they were in the past few years, even pre-pandemic, as travel and festivities returned in full swing in 2022.
Due to high competition for manpower and soaring inflation rates, part-timers were paid, on average, up to a third more in 2022 compared with 2021.
According to job portals and recruitment agencies The Straits Times approached, the number of part-time jobs has increased significantly – especially in retail, food and beverage (F&B), events, hospitality and logistics sectors – to cater to the seasonal surge.
Recruitment firm RecruitFirst cited a spike of more than 60 per cent since October.
Job portal WorkClass observed that, as compared with quieter periods, demand in November and December for part-timers in transportation and logistics jobs rose by 55 per cent and 62 per cent respectively.
Not only did job opportunities for part-timers boom from October 2022, the number of openings surged more during the 2022 festive period than in 2021 or pre-pandemic in 2019.
Portal JobStreet Singapore noted that more companies started hiring part-timers one month earlier, from October, in 2022 than in 2021.
Another portal FastJobs found its part-time job postings climb by nearly a third in the fourth quarter of 2022, compared with the same period in 2021.
When compared with the last quarter of 2019, before the pandemic hit, the portal said the number of part-time jobs posted jumped by more than 70 per cent during the same period in 2022.
Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Faizal Yahya said some sectors could see foreign staff taking leave during the festive year-end season so businesses may require more part-timers to fill the void.
National University of Singapore labour economist Kelvin Seah said Covid-19 restrictions have lifted substantially now compared with the festive season in 2021.
“People are eating out more, shopping more, and out of their homes more, so there is greater business activity in Singapore,” he added, explaining that this raises demand for goods and services and, in turn, part-time workers.
Dining at F&B establishments and hotel accommodation demand would go up as well, especially with travellers returning, he said.
Logistics firm J&T Express sales and marketing director Alice Yeung said: “Over the course of the pandemic, we saw the rise of online shopping leading to an increase in demand for delivery services, which has exacerbated a manpower shortage.”
She added that to manage the surge in demand driven by shopping festivals such as 11.11, Black Friday, 12.12, Christmas and New Year’s Day, the firm typically increases manpower over November and December for positions such as warehouse assistants and drivers.
“We hired over 40 per cent more part-timers during 2022’s festive season compared with business-as-usual periods,” she noted. “During last year’s shopping festivals, part-timers made up about 30 per cent of all employees.”
Commonwealth Capital, whose investment portfolio includes F&B brands such as Pastamania, Udders and The Soup Spoon, as well as other manufacturing, logistics and retail services, said it has been facing a manpower shortage throughout 2022 and the issue was aggravated during the festivities.
Its brands require 10 per cent to 20 per cent more part-timers during this period.
JobStreet Singapore said, in general, part-time jobs on the portal pay about 20 per cent more in 2022 than in 2021.
Workclass pointed out that based on its platform’s postings, there was a larger raise for part-timers on the lower end of the pay scale.
In 2021, 64 per cent of hourly part-time salaries were between $8 and $10. In 2022, 68 per cent of these salaries were between $10 and $12.
WorkClass said the part-timers with one of the highest wage hikes – nearly a third more – were packers, from an average hourly starting salary of about $8 in 2021 to $11 in 2022, based on job postings.
“A dollar now buys less than a dollar one year ago, so workers expect higher wages to maintain their standard of living and firms have little choice but to pay higher wages,” Dr Seah said. He added that even though 30 per cent is a substantial increment, he thinks it is reasonable.
Even with higher wages, many businesses are still struggling to fill short-term vacancies during the end of the year.
FastJobs Singapore and Philippines general manager Lim Huishan said: “The increase in job postings in 2022 compared with previous years has made the market even more competitive, so while jobs are being filled fast, we do observe that businesses may have difficulty hiring enough job seekers to fill all the required vacancies.”
Commonwealth Capital said its brands’ hourly wages are generally higher by about 10 per cent to 15 per cent during the festive season, but in a tight labour market, it is expected that not all vacancies will be filled.
To combat the manpower crunch, Dr Faizal said businesses may transform through digitalisation and automation, as well as reskilling workers to work with new technology.
At J&T Express, warehouse layout, sorting strategy and other processes were improved to boost productivity by 30 per cent in preparation for year-end sales, said Ms Yeung.
“At the end of the day, it is not just about hiring more hands on deck but also about maintaining a good balance between our manpower and efficiency levels,” she added.
Ninja Van Singapore commercial head Kooh Wee Hou said the logistics firm invests in technology such as parcel scanners that tell sorters where items should go and a route optimisation system so drivers deliver packages more efficiently.
“We hired roughly the same number of part-timers (in 2022) as our last festive season in 2021, despite parcel volume increment,” he added.
As the labour crunch persists, the increase in part-time salaries will likely continue.
Mr See Yang Foo, managing director and country head for workforce solutions provider Persolkelly Singapore, said employers will likely boost wages in 2023 to entice talent to join the retail sector.
“In the fast-moving consumer goods and retail sectors, retail businesses are dealing with a manpower crunch due to a shrinking pool of Singaporeans willing to work in the services sector,” he added.
Ms Lee Sin Yee, a fourth-year psychology undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University, has taken on part-time jobs since 2014.
“I wanted to be financially independent as much as possible, to be able to buy the things I like without having to ask for money from my parents,” she said.
The 24-year-old has had seven part-time jobs, such as server, warehouse worker and teacher.
Despite higher part-time salaries during the festive season that may even be doubled on public holidays, she will not take them up if they clash with school commitments such as inter-hall competitions.
She even took days off from working as a part-time teacher for a kindergarten enrichment programme, which pays $25 an hour, to take part in such school activities.
“The jobs don’t really appeal to me because they are usually looking for people to fill in at specific periods with fixed dates and timings. I prefer to have the flexibility to choose when I want to work,” she said.