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Employment in Singapore Recovers as 40% of Companies Increase Headcount in 2021: Survey

Professional recruitment services firm Michael Page Singapore launched the Talent Trends 2021 Report, with a keen eye on Singapore’s job  market. While hiring activities dipped 35% in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, 40% of employers cited their plans to increase headcount numbers this year – indicating an  optimistic recovery path.  

Nilay Khandelwal, Managing Director of Michael Page Singapore, says, “Singapore’s  economy has turned a corner and remains a stable, secure and trusted hub, with seamless  connections. As the economy recovers, investment into the market will flourish, and that  would drive the demand for talent amid the business recovery climate.”  

In view of the economic demands, the sectors earmarked for highest hiring activity are  technology & telecommunications, banking & financial services, industrial & manufacturing, FMCG as well as professional services.  

According to the report, job creation in Singapore’s technology sector is driving the uptick in employment. Many businesses in Singapore were not ready for the new normal when technology capabilities had to ramp up quickly to ensure business continuity during the  pandemic. To that end, Singapore’s fintech and e-commerce sectors became role models for  everybody else. These sectors, in particular, remained buoyant throughout 2020, thus  becoming good examples for non-technology businesses to follow suit.  

2021 will see further drive to upgrade and digitise businesses where technology  professionals skilled in data engineering, data visualisation, software developing and cybersecurity will see the most demand. According to the report, 80% of technology  professionals state renumeration and benefits as their top consideration when accepting a  job offer. 

Considering the increased competition for high-potential professionals, Nilay Khandelwal  advises, “Tech professionals are currently in great demand, hence it is pertinent for  employers to ensure they are not a part of a talent auction process and are paying in line  with market standards to attract the right talent. In addition to remuneration and brand  reputation, tech stack exposure is an important factor to attract top tech talent in Singapore.”  

As a viable option to bridge skill gaps arising from increased investment in digital tools, 20%  of companies in Singapore cited prioritising short-term contractors/temporary employment in  their 2021 hiring strategy. This spiked in the back end of 2020 particularly across digital,  procurement and technology, since travel and borders remain closed. This is likely to  continue in 2021 as businesses in Singapore make more strategic recruitment plans and hire  for the future. 

In addition to recruitment insights and industry analysis on the Singapore job market, the  report also shares new insights across the Asia Pacific market on related topics such as  digital readiness, organisational structure, flexible working, leadership, performance  management, and diversity and inclusion.  

Across the Asia Pacific region, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a major blow to the global  economy across all sectors and markets in 2020. Job vacancies dropped by 8% to 35%  depending on the location. Several businesses reported a conservative approach to their  hiring strategy, choosing instead to freeze or even reduce their headcount in order to reduce  costs. However the reduced rate of hiring was not an indication that businesses shut out all  qualified talent altogether. We saw very positive trends upward from Q2 to Q3, and Q4  versus Q3 2020. Optimism exists in 2021, as 42% of businesses in Asia Pacific said that  they are already looking to increase headcount in the year.  

While the boundaries of work-life balance were debated in 2020, 4 in 5 employees were  found to feel equally or more productive working from home, only 5% of them prefer to work  completely remotely. This indicates a need for frequent social interaction with co-workers.  With this, 51% of organisations evolved their performance evaluations. To reflect the times  of crisis, management teams started reassessing individuals with greater importance placed  on positive behaviours, 64% of companies rated team collaboration as the most valued  employees attribute during times of crisis.  

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