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Workforce and Talent Trends 2021: Singapore and the Asia Pacific
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the one thing that kept us going was the light at the end of the tunnel. For Singapore, this ‘light’ comes in the forms of vaccination, which the city-state is already progressively rolling out to its citizens, as well as several positive economic indicators that hint at the recovery that businesses and everyday Singaporeans have been looking forward to.
For example, while hiring activities dipped 35% in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, 40% of employers cited plans to increase headcount numbers in 2021. Furthermore, unemployment has fallen for the second straight month, according to Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower. If Singapore can keep up with these positive indicators, 2021 will likely be the year that the city-state finally exits the proverbial tunnel and out into the light.
As part of our recent launch of the Talent Trends 2021 report, we look at what the upcoming year has in store for Singapore's businesses, specifically from the recruitment perspective.
On the up and up
While Singapore has yet to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror, Nilay Khandelwal, Managing Director of Michael Page Singapore, believes Singapore will get there relatively soon if it stays on its current course. “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.”
Certain sectors in Singapore are already experiencing heightened hiring activities. For example, Banking & Financial Services, Industrial & Manufacturing, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods, and Professional Services all had a relatively buoyant year in 2020. With that said, according to our Talent Trends 2021 report, leading the hiring wave was Singapore’s Technology sector, which is currently facing a talent crunch. The local information communication sector, for example, will require about 60,000 positions to be filled over the next three years. The government’s very-own job boards had 10,000 tech-related job postings, with another 6,800 jobs and traineeships created by June 2021. In terms of skills, 2021 will see a further drive to upgrade and digitise businesses where technology professionals skilled in data engineering, data visualisation, software development and cybersecurity will see the most demand.
Considering the upcoming competition for tech talent, Khandelwal has this advice to share, “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.”
Aside from recruitment insights and industry analyses on the Singapore job market, the report also delves into new insights across the Asia Pacific market. For example, job vacancies dropped by eight points to 35% depending on the location. Businesses in the region reported a more conservative approach to their hiring strategies, choosing instead to freeze or even reduce their headcount to reduce costs. However, the reduced hiring rate 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, too, will prevail in 2021 as 42% of businesses in the Asia Pacific said that they were already looking to increase headcount in the year.
A new workplace for a new normal
Aside from the Asia-Pacific overview, the report also touches on topics such as digital readiness, organisational structure, flexible working, leadership, performance management, and diversity and inclusion.
For instance, while the boundaries of work-life balance were debated in 2020, four in five employees said that they were equally or more productive working from home. In fact, only 5% of them prefer to work completely remotely. This indicates that, while full-time work in an office setting is unlikely to resume across the board, workers much prefer to have the best of both worlds. The social element of an office setting, despite current trends, is hard to replace.
Performance evaluations, too, have changed over the past year. Among the organisations we spoke to, 51% have changed the way they assess their employees to reflect the times of crisis. Management teams, for example, began assessing individuals by placing greater emphasis on positive behaviours, such as resilience and collaboration. In fact, 64% of the organisations surveyed cited team collaboration as the most valued employee attribute during crisis times.
Looking ahead, the positive trends within Singapore will gradually spread across the region as a whole. While it is clear that the impact of Covid-19 is not disappearing anytime soon, companies in most markets have adapted rather than wait for the situation to be resolved. Many have been aggressively making hiring decisions and executing business plans despite the prevailing economic climate, all to pull ahead of their competition when the market resumes. Considering such trends, we are optimistic about the road ahead for Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region.