In the second quarter of 2018, Singapore witnessed a higher unemployment rate and more retrenchments. As Singapore’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged up to 2.1 percent in September, the country observed the highest jobless rate since the fourth quarter of 2017. These rising unemployment rates confirm how tight the labor market for Singapore is. The demographic shift where the majority of the population of the country is young adds to the adverse job market situation. The reason for this increasing unemployment rate is, however, not lack of jobs but lack of availability of the right talent shared Patrick Tay, Assistant Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
In one of the events hosted by Aon, Patrick spoke about the key talent challenges prevalent in the Singapore market and also talked about the opportunities and possibilities the future holds.
Here are some key talent trends as highlighted by Patrick:
Changing face of talent, work
A highly-skilled employee in the manufacturing, financial services or the TMT (technology, media, and telecommunications) industry in Singapore can expect to be paid an extra US$29,100 (S$39,500) per year by 2030 as talent shortages loom, as per a study by consulting firm Korn Ferry. Employers are struggling to find suitable talent to fill in positions and hence the fight for the ‘right talent’ gets tougher, making them pay higher salaries to highly-skilled professional. While on one end a portion of talent gets better opportunities, the talent at the other end remains either underemployed or unemployed. To shorten this gap and to create opportunities for all, business has to invest in talent from both the ends. Investing in learning and development in this scenario becomes extremely critical. The focus thus has to shift on skilling. It will be the responsibility of HR and development leaders to create a good force who is not only able to manage but lead the future of work.
Rise of automation
Robotization, mechanization, virtualization, and digitalization is the order of the day, mentioned Patrick. Surveys and experts have repeatedly highlighted that all the transactional work will be replaced or digitized. But the good news is that automation is here to make the job easier. Yes, it will replace the jobs repetitive in nature, but it will also create more jobs and opportunities and it has already opened many new doors. The only challenge that is there for the talent leaders is to have an eye for these new opportunities and have a strategy to harness the talent to make most of these possibilities. The human capital will always remain the interface and as time moves on and the pace of change keeps on increasing it will become more important.
Rise of Gig Economy and diverse workforce
With more than 200,000 independent co-workers in Singapore, gig economy is the new normal for many employers in the country. This new work culture brings with it new work-dynamics and impacts every talent decision for the company. From recruiting to appraisals to learning and development, the people strategies have to be revamped and made more relevant as per the gig work environment. The sectors where freelancing is most popular are insurance, real estate, cab services, and media creative sectors. Slowly, the other sectors are also catching on and work teams are becoming more agile, temporary and geographically spread. The ease with which people sitting in two corners of the world can connect today also contributes to the changing demographics in the workplace. The teams are increasingly becoming more diverse, with diversity in terms of not only culture but age, educational background, and gender as well. People from varied backgrounds coming together to work on projects is regarded as a good strategy to ensure an innovative and productive work environment. However, how an organization creates and promotes a diverse and inclusive culture is key. The talent strategies, therefore, have to be revised and transformed to stay relevant and cope with these challenges.
Not only employers, but even the government of Singapore is taking initiatives to make employment laws and policies more inclusive across sectors.
Recently, in October the Manpower Minister Josephine Teo tabled the first reading of the Employment (Amendment) Act in Parliament and laid out the proposed suggestion to the existing act. In this employment (Amendment) Bill, one of the key proposals is to expand the scope of the act and cover all professionals, managers, and executives (PMEs) regardless of their salary levels. Additionally, Patrick also shared the plans of the government to take care of Singapore’s aging population crisis. While currently, the retirement age is 62, it might be changed and increased. But besides these laws and policies that merely act as guidelines and principles, what the entire nation requires from talent leaders and practitioners is proactiveness and preparedness to move on and help the talent move on with the changes as they come.