Foreign vs. local workers: Who is buoying up Singapore’s economy?

by Miklos Bolza28 Oct 2015
According to the Monetary Association of Singapore (MAS), the net employment gains in the first half (H1) of 2015 were due entirely to an increase in foreign workers.
 
Overall, there was a net increase of 3,600 jobs within Singapore during H1 2015. While there were 12,500 more foreign workers hired, local jobs actually fell by 8,900 in the same period.
 
These figures are a dramatic change from H1 2014 when a total of 56,100 jobs were created – consisting of 41,000 local jobs and 15,100 foreign jobs.
 
The MAS writes that the largest proportion of foreign hires were work permit holders within the following sectors:
  • Administration & support
  • Transport & storage
  • Accommodation & food services
Interestingly, both accommodation & food services and administration & support experienced some of the highest vacancy rates in Singapore – indicating that HR in these areas was having a hard time finding people to fill any open positions. This may show that despite the higher proportion of foreign hires, these sectors still have plenty of openings for local workers as well.
 
Regarding net employment levels, industries which experienced the largest decreases include manufacturing which lost 11,300 jobs and retail trade which lost 9,000 workers.
 
Shai Ganu, Mercer’s business leader for talent consulting in Asia, told HRD that the slowdown in growth in manufacturing didn’t necessarily point towards a recession.
 
“In the past few years, we’ve seen companies becoming more regional,” he said. “So more Asian or ASEAN companies have expanded outside their own borders and/or are expanding internationally.”
 
“As more manufacturing companies are expanding in the region, you rely less on manufacturing just within Singapore. Facilities in Indonesia, India or Thailand may be picking up some of the demand.”
 
In order to combat this slowdown in employment, Ganu recommended HR get smarter in the hiring process.
 
“For important roles such as sales or relationship managers, it is important to get it right in the first place,” he said. “When times are good and the market is booming, you may hire ten people and lose five. You don’t really care because you’ll hire five more. But when times are not so good, if you are hiring ten people then you want nine of them to stay with you.”
 
To do this, he recommended using predictive analytics during recruitment to see which candidates have a better chance of succeeding in the organisation. These tools could also be used to retain workers and prevent vacancies in the future.
 
“You can use multivariate analysis to identify a group of employees who are more likely to leave in the next future. Imagine as a manager if we told you that of the 20 people working for you, these five were more likely to resign in the next six months. You could then take remedial action and intervene to stop them from leaving.”
 
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