You can find a job in 8 weeks in Singapore: Why jobseekers should not be too happy

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Recently, Bloomberg published this report with a very utopian-sounding headline: "It takes just 8 weeks to find a job in Singapore". It went on to compare Singapore with countries like Australia, where it takes considerably longer to replace a lost job.

The employment market here is still a lot more favourable to employees than it is in many other countries. But it's a mistake to believe that you can give your boss the finger today and then sail on to another job tomorrow.

Here are three reasons why you shouldn't assume it's easy to find a decent job despite the statistics.

1. Low unemployment doesn't mean low underemployment

Singapore's unemployment rate remains low despite the fact that layoffs are at a 7-year high. Even at its highest point in the fourth quarter of 2016, the overall unemployment rate was just 2.1 per cent.

But there are many factors that lower the unemployment rate other than the availability of jobs.

One is the lack of unemployment benefits in Singapore. While not having unemployment benefits reduces the number of people who sit around on their arse enjoying handouts paid for by taxpayers, it also raises the number of people who are willing to work in jobs they are overqualified for in order to survive.

A prime example is the retrenched PMET who becomes a taxi driver, a narrative that isn't at all uncommon here. According to the statistics, this engineer-turned-taxi-driver is employed on a full-time basis. However, he is also underemployed as he is doing a job he is overqualified for, which depending on how you look at it may not be so great.

Jobs that suffer from a high turnover rate

  • Lawyers

    Right now, the legal profession is facing a glut of fresh grads all vying for limited training contract spots. But five years down the road, most of these rookies will have moved on and left the legal world behind.

  • Lawyers

    Despite some of Singapore's highest starting salaries, high job security and the fact that having a kid in law school is a bragging point for many parents, lawyers just keep quitting.

  • Lawyers

    It seems to boil down to two very simple points. The first is that lawyers often have awful work-life balance. The second reason is because law is one of the "default" choices of high scorers, who soon find that doing a job you're not that interested in is very difficult.

  • Teachers

    Some teachers enter the profession because they feel genuinely invested in the future of the youths of Singapore. Some enrol in NIE because teaching is supposedly an iron rice bowl, the pay's not bad and you get school holidays.

  • Teachers

    Unfortunately, teachers from both camps end up burning out. A recent news report shed light on the plight of teachers who leave the profession because of the stress, long hours, lack of work-life balance and, most notably, the piles and piles of admin work.

  • Teachers

    Anyone who's got a teacher in their lives knows that most continue to work at home, doing admin, marking scripts and planning lessons till late into the night when they should be spending time with their own friends and family.

  • Real estate agents

    Newspapers often shine the spotlight on real estate agents who've made it big, like the girl who made her first million last year.

  • Real estate agents

    Despite the chance of fat commissions, real estate is not an easy industry to break into, especially given the fact that the market has been in the doldrums ever since the property cooling measures were put in places years ago.

  • Real estate agents

    More Singaporean property owners and buyers now also prefer to bypass agents altogether thanks to the internet, and it's easy to see why agents are fighting for an ever-shrinking pie.

2. Foreign employees lower the unemployment rate

Certain sectors, most notably finance, shipping and oil and gas, aren't doing so well this year, and employees in these areas can find themselves praying each morning they won't show up to work only to discover their email accounts have been suspended.

Tell these people there are abundant jobs in the F&B industry and they'll give you a blank look.

There are certain industries facing a shortage of local workers, such as the nursing profession and in the service sector. These are also sectors where foreign-born employees tend to outnumber locals. This tends to happen in situations where wages have been depressed and are thus avoided by locals, as well as with roles where there is a shortage of qualified Singaporeans, such as software engineering.

When foreign employees are brought in to fill these roles, the unemployment rate falls. In the absence of PR status, these employees are obliged to leave the country if they become unemployed and thus do not contribute to unemployment statistics.

That is why although the overall unemployment rate for 2016 was 2.1 per cent, the resident (i.e. citizens and PRs) unemployment rate was actually 3 per cent.

Companies that have cut down their workforce in 2016

  • Tripda

    Rocket Internet's carpooling app, Tripda announced earlier this month that they would be organising a global shutdown of the platform.

  • Autodesk

    Autodesk a design-focused software announced early month that they will be laying off 925 positions, around 10 per cent of their entire workforce.

  • Yahoo

    Recently tech giant Yahoo confirmed that would be shedding 15 per cent of their entire workforce, and its also exploring other "strategic alternatives".

  • Yahoo

    Employees in Yahoo's Singapore office were notified of the layoffs on Feb 18.

  • Rakuten

    e-commerce platform Rakuten announced in Feb 2016 that they would be shutting down all their operations in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

  • Rakuten

    The platform probably faced a significant number of challenges in Malaysia, and they will be withdrawing to focus their efforts in countries like Japan and Taiwan.

  • Bombardier

    Bombardier will be cutting their workforce by about 7000 over the next two years.

  • Bombardier

    They will be cutting 580 jobs from their Belfast operation this year and potentially another 500 the following year.

  • Shell

    Multinational oil and gas company, Royal Dutch Shell operates in more than 70 countries and employ more than 94,000 people worldwide.

  • Shell

    Given the fact that oil prices have dropped by almost 70 per cent in less than two years, the company has already started cutting 10,000 jobs to try and recover from all their losses.

  • Devon Energy

    Devon Energy, a US oil producer, mentioned that 700 people would lose their jobs by the end of the Feb 18, 2016, and this is all in response to the current commodity price environment.

  • Top Glove

    Malaysian company Top Glove is currently the world's largest maker of natural rubber gloves with operations in 27 countries. The company announced that they would cut their foreign labour by 5 per cent due to rising costs and increasing automation.

  • Barclays

    Some 100 Barclays employees in Singapore were axed on Jan 21 in a drastic cost-cutting exercise which saw the bank exit multiple businesses across Asia.

  • Standard Chartered

    Global bank Standard Chartered had laid off a number of people in Singapore late last year as it axed 15,000 jobs globally.

  • Standard Chartered

    Its previous workforce globally was at 86,000, and currently employs about 7,000 staff in Singapore.

  • HSBC

    HSBC has announced that they will be freezing salaries and freezing hiring in 2016 globally in the battle to cut costs, affecting 3,000 Singapore employees.

  • Resorts World Sentosa

    According to a report on Straits Times, more than 30 employees at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) have been laid off earlier in February.

  • Resorts World Sentosa

    However, the lay offs was due to overstaffing and it is not an isolated case. There are currently about 12,000 people working at Resorts World Sentosa.

  • Maersk

    Maersk Line, one of the world's top container shipping companies, recently merged its Singapore and Hong Kong regional offices. Last November, it also shared new plans to reduce its network capacity and announced that it will be cutting 4,000 jobs.

  • STMicroelectronics

    STMicroelectronics will cut about 1,400 jobs and close its loss-making set-top box business, including 670 in Asia.

  • Goldman Sachs

    Goldman Sachs has been reducing the size of its investment-banking team in Singapore by about 30 per cent compared with the start of last year, according to a report from Bloomberg.

  • Credit Suisse

    Credit Suisse announced 4,000 job cuts globally, although no layoffs are expected in the Asia-Pacific region yet.

  • Royal Bank of Scotland

    Royal Bank of Scotland has also announced that they could be cutting as many as 80 per cent of the jobs in its investment banking unit over the next 4 years, and last year laid off "hundreds" in Singapore.

3. Having a full-time job doesn't necessarily mean being financially comfortable

Despite the low unemployment figures, Singaporeans still freak out about money on a daily basis.

Clearly, the availability of jobs doesn't necessarily translate to a greater sense of financial security.

Due to the high cost of living and the lack of a minimum wage, there are full-time jobs out there that do not permit employees to earn a living wage.

They may not literally be starving on the streets, but many are obliged to live with their parents or children, and must turn to assistance from the government or charity organisations to help. Many are also ill-prepared for retirement, and given the falling birth rate, this could be a major problem in future when there are fewer young people around to support seniors.

It's therefore a very bad idea to think you've got financial security just based on the unemployment figures alone. Not all full-time jobs here can give you the financial support you need even if you live a modest lifestyle, and it's up to you to upgrade yourself to the point where you can qualify for those which can.

5 things young Singaporeans waste money on without realising it

  • Out of the Top 10 most common Facebook messages that pops up on my timeline is the exhortation to please buy the remaining 6 months of someone's gym membership since they never use it/they are leaving the country/their significant other has quit the gym.
  • But seriously, the real reason people are always trying to offload their memberships is that most of them signed up due to predatory sales tactics of gym salespeople.
  • Only to later discover that they just didn't have the time/energy/will to drag themselves to a work out.
  • I even know someone who purchased a lifetime membership for, well, more than what some Singaporeans earn in a year. He hardly goes.
  • If you're an avid online shopper, you already know for a fact that when you buy clothes online, you can expect at least 10 per cent to 20 per cent of your buys to look significantly worse than you thought they would.
  • A friend of mine who spent the whole of last year addicted to Taobao has reportedly thrown away every single one of her buys, including two Prada bags she paid $500 for that turned out to be fakes when the handle got ripped off of one of them.
  • Despite the relatively low price of some online clothing stores, be aware that you might end up spending a lot more in the long run due to clothes that look way worse than you predicted.
  • Dining as a group can be tricky. When someone wants to share a few appetizers, nobody wants to be a wet blanket by saying they'll stick to their mains. And most of the time, if the bill is shared equally amongst you, you'll end up paying for their share even if you didn't eat or explicitly agree to adding additional items.
  • This one is for the ladies (mostly). In most of my office jobs, I couldn't help but notice how so many of the ladies-interns included, had perfectly manicured nails.
  • Okay, I can understand how examining your nails throughout the MRT ride to work can help to take your mind off the crowds, I guess.
  • But the main thing is that manicures are actually insanely expensive when you consider the fact that they only last 2-3 weeks max and are a rather non-essential embellishment that you can easily DIY.
  • Bringing lunch to work just doesn't happen anymore, and with the CBD area becoming more and more of a nightlife and entertainment district these days, lunchtime can feel like a high-stakes social game.

The article first appeared on MoneySmart

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