3 ways the employment landscape in Singapore has changed over the years

MONEYSMART
Thursday, Mar 08, 2018

Building a career in 2018 is a whole different ballgame from how it was in 1998. There’s a reason nobody who’s looking for a job right now takes their parents advice seriously. That’s because the employment landscape has changed so much that it’s now unrecognisable.

In the past, students rushed to enter courses like medicine, dentistry and law, and those didn’t make it would take the next best thing, usually finance or engineering. Upon graduation, finding a stable job that would yield an iron ricebowl was the ultimate goal.

These days, things look very different. Here are three ways in which the employment landscape is changing:

1. More people working in freelance, part-time or temp jobs

While the unemployment rate in Singapore remains enviably low, the conditions under which people are employed are changing.

Today, fewer poly and ITE grads are in full-time employment compared to ten years ago. The main reason is that more and more are taking up freelance, part-time or temporary work.

Some do so in the interim as they get ready to enrol in a poly or university course. Others do so out of choice. And of course, we can’t discount the fact that some are working under such conditions simply because they haven’t been able to find full-time work yet.

This mirrors a growing freelance workforce, which has been fuelled by a desire for better work-life balance and autonomy, and made possible thanks to the Internet. In fact, there is a trend of people leaving their stable jobs for freelance work.

This is in part due to to changing ideals, as workers increasingly covet the lifestyle benefits of flexibility rather than the stability of a steady paycheck.

2. Higher employee turnover

In our parents’ time, employees stayed longer at their jobs. Good jobs weren’t so easy to come by. If you had a stable job at a decent company with a good salary, you tried to hang on to that job for dear life.

Singapore in the 21st century is a hotbed of multinationals, and with a low youth unemployment rate compared to most other developed nations, finding a new job isn’t quite so hard. In fact, career-minded young people are advised to change jobs every few years in order to force pay rises.

At the same time, thanks to the Internet and the labour crunch, working hours have been rising steadily and Singaporeans now work some of the world’s longest hours. What’s more, labour laws are decidedly employee-centric here, which leaves workers with few rights. If your boss insists you stay till midnight, there is not much you can do.

All these factors have diminished employee loyalty, and raised the employee turnover rate in Singapore. For young workers in Singapore today, it is perfectly normal to change jobs every two or three years. In fact, a 2016 survey found that Singaporeans are prone to job hopping, with 51% of the workers surveyed having been with their employer for under two years.

3. More people making mid-career switches

Careers are no longer the straight and narrow paths they once were.

Jobs become obsolete at a much faster rate than before, and young workers are a dime a dozen, whether from the local or foreign workforce.

And with so many middle-aged workers getting retrenched these days, young workers must be prepared for the possibility of being forced to make a mid-career switch later on in life.

For instance, according to a recent news report, more Singaporeans are making a mid-career switch to nursing, thanks in part to the fact that the healthcare sector’s manpower needs will grow exponentially in the coming years.

To encourage more to make the switch, the government is even sponsoring a 2-year Professional Conversion Programme administered by NUS to enable interested Singaporeans to make the switch more easily.

Not everyone making a mid-career switch does so out of need, though. With an increased emphasis on finding meaningful work, many well-paid Singaporeans voluntarily leave lucrative jobs to start businesses or to pursue their interests later on in life.

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