Hiring sentiments in Singapore, now at the lowest since the 2009 recession, are tipped to stay cautious in the next three months - even as recruitment is likely to improve a bit.
"With global socio-economic issues such as the uncertainty over 'Brexit', the recent US elections and the outcome of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) hanging in the balance, employers are closely observing market conditions and are expected to adjust their workforce levels when there is more visibility," ManpowerGroup said on Monday when it released its latest Employment Outlook report.
Based on a survey of 620 employers, the latest quarterly report by the US-based employment firm says that for the first three months of 2017, 15 per cent of the bosses plan to increase headcount, 7 per cent intend to trim hirings and 71 per cent expect no change in recruitment.
This results in a net employment outlook - the percentage of employers likely to hire minus the percentage expecting to reduce jobs - of +9 per cent for the first quarter of next year, which is better than the +7 per cent in the previous survey for the current quarter.
According to that survey, 13 per cent of the employers indicated they were likely to hire more workers, 5 per cent intended to recruit fewer and 73 per cent said they saw no change in employment.
Hiring plans for Q1 of 2017 is projected to slip one percentage point year on year, against five percentage points for the current quarter.
"A challenging employment outlook persists into the first quarter of 2017 as Singapore employers continue to remain cautiously optimistic about their hiring plans in the year of the Fire Rooster," ManpowerGroup said.
Linda Teo, its country manager in Singapore, also pointed out the widening rift between jobs and skills here, which could compound the employment situation in the long run.
"Even while hiring prospects remain relatively stable both quarter on quarter and year over year, the growing mismatch between jobs and skills looms ahead and will worsen if not addressed by workers and employers," she said.
The latest survey indicated that six of the seven sectors covered are likely to raise staffing levels in the first three months of 2017, with finance, insurance and real estate reporting the strongest hiring sentiment.
This sector scores a net employment outlook of +19 per cent - the same as in the previous quarter and up five percentage points from a year ago.
Wholesale trade and retail is the only sector that's expected to see a decline in payroll, with a net employment outlook of -2 per cent.
Compared with the previous quarter, hiring prospects improved in four of the seven sectors - especially in mining and construction which reported a five percentage boost in net employment outlook.
The services and the wholesale trade and retail sectors saw a seven and two percentage point fall respectively.
Hiring prospects have grown dimmer from a year ago for five of the seven sectors.
The worst is for public administration and education, where the net employment outlook dropped 11 percentage points.
Only the finance, insurance and real estate and the manufacturing sectors face better hiring prospects with net employment outlook up five and two percentage points respectively.
Among the Asia-Pacific economies, Singapore's net employment outlook score for Q1 of next year is lower than Taiwan (+25 per cent), India (+24 per cent), Japan (+23 per cent), New Zealand (+15 per cent) and Hong Kong (+13 per cent).
It's on par with Australia and better than China (+4 per cent).
Taiwan has the highest hiring prospect among the 43 economies covered in the survey, while Switzerland (-2 per cent) and Brazil (-9 per cent) have the worst.
This article was first published on December 13, 2016.
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