March 13, 2008

S'pore job market expected to stay upbeat

By Ong Bi Hui

STOCK markets are spouting loads of gloom and doom right now, but it is a good time to enter the job market, according to an expert from recruitment specialist Robert Walters.

Regional director Mark Ellwood said multinational corporations still see Asia as a key growth area and will keep hiring, despite gathering concerns about the United States economy.

However, he said Singapore might not enjoy the same sterling employment figures it did last year, given the US downturn, which has begun to affect Europe as well. If recession strikes China and India, Asia might experience negative job growth, he added.

Singapore's job market will remain upbeat, he believes, with the highly competitive finance sector enjoying the greatest increase in salaries. Firms are willing to pay a 20 to 25 per cent premium to entice talent into jumping ship.

One reason is that Singapore has become a source market for talent from banks in China, India and the Middle East.

There is a job boom in procurements, engineering and human resources. Highly skilled workers competent in risk management, sales and marketing, and pricing and costing are also hot property.

The skill shortage seen last year is likely to persist, pushing up wages across all sectors.

Robert Walters attributes this to efforts to promote Singapore as a financial hub. As a result, many global firms have set up regional offices here, which has in turn created demand for skilled talent.

'It is not often we see a candidate-driven market,' said Mr Ellwood. 'Employers now have to offer more attractive packages or counter-offers to retain talent.'

The shortage of local talent has also forced firms to recruit abroad, with overseas hires rising from 5 per cent to 15-20 per cent in the past 18 months in all sectors.

Though talent has usurped the driver's seat in the current job market, Robert Walters, which recruits mainly for the financial and legal fields, advises against job-hopping as the inability to demonstrate career longevity might work against some people.

Mr Ellwood also believes financial remuneration alone will not be enough to help firms stem the brain drain. Workers are also concerned about the working culture and promotion opportunities.