~by: Leong Sze Hian~
About two weeks ago, I gave a talk to a group of about 25 unemployed Professionals, Managers, Engineers and Technicians (PMETs). Many of these PMETs have been unemployed for more than a year. So, when the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released its Job Vacancies, 2011 Report on 27 January, I decided to read the 42-page report.
54,000 jobs nobody wants?
The Report states, “As employers scale back on hiring amid the weaker economic outlook, job vancancies declined by 3.4% over the quarter to 54,000 in September 2011. Amid the tight labour market, the proportion of vacancies unfilled for at least six months rose to 35% in 2011 from 33% a year ago”
What does it actually mean when we say that “there were 18,230 vacancies unfilled for at least six months in 2011”? If an employer is unable to find workers for job vacancies for more than six months, could it be that the employer may not really need to fill the vacant positions? How does one run a business without the worker they need for more than six months? Surely, if you really need a worker to fill a vacancy, you would pay more and try harder to fill it, if you really need the worker.
Vacancies – foreigners preferred?
Could it be that some employers who participated in the survey may simply have indicated vacancies that may have such low pay levels that few Singaporeans or permanent residents (PRs) want them? After all, the Job Vacancies report is for local workers (Singaporeans and PRs), excluding foreigners.
Could it be that what some employers may actually be saying is that they could not get locals to fill the vacancies, but they were also unable to get foreigners because they had already exceeded their foreign worker quotas?
My points raised above were reinforced when I read the report on how the data was collected:
“Data on job vacancies for broad occupational groups are collected from the quarterly Labour Market Surveys conducted by the Manpower Research and Statistics Department on private establishments (each with at least 25 employees) and the public sector."
It is interesting to note that “those requiring at least primary or lower education (13,220 or 25%) chalked up the largest number of vacancies, followed by openings requiring minimally secondary (10,600 or 20%)” This means that about 45% of the vacancies, may be low-pay jobs.
“Service & Sales workers (11,500 or 22% of total vacancies) such as waiters, security guards and shop sales assistants were most in demand”.
The pay for waiters and shop sales assistants at the 25th percentile was $800 and $1,200 respectively, and $1,100 for security guards.
What about hours worked?
However, other than pay, we may also need to look at the number of hours worked.
I understand that security guards may generally need to work about 72 hours a week, which works out to only about $5 an hour.
In this connection, my classmate who is 60 years old met up with me recently, and told me that the only job that he was offered was as a sales assistant in a supermarket chain at $4.80 an hour part-time.
Low pay PMETs?
The Report said, “only 14% of such (PMET) openings (were) vacant for at least six months compared with nearly half (49%) of non-PMET openings”, but I have come across PMET jobs offering less than $2,500. Could this “low-pay” be one of the reasons why “by broader occupational categories, PMETs (21,490 or 41%) continued to form the largest share of vacancies”?
Why weren't employers surveyed asked about the pay that they were offering? Wouldn't the starting pay be generally lower than that of existing workers, which is what is reflected in the MOM report now?
Jobs with declining wages?
The 25th percentile gross wage of waiters decreased from $930 to $819, from 2009 to 2010, according to the Job vacancies 2009 and 2010 reports, and has now further declined to only $800, according to the 2011 report. And we have not even factored in inflation for the last three years!
Waiters had the highest Overall Job Vacancies, at 2,290, in the category, Service & Sales Workers.
How to survive on $522?
It is not surprising that Cleaner (Industrial Establishment) had the highest overall job vacancies of 1,180 in the category, Cleaners, Labourers & Related Workers, because their gross wage at the 25th percentile was only $522.
It is also not surprising that Bus Drivers had the highest Incidence of Vacancies Unfilled for at least six months (%), at 91.7%, as their gross wage was only $1,250 at the 25th percentile.
This brings up the question as to how we can have a world class public transport system, when we pay such low wages?
How many jobs to Singaporeans?
When total employment grew by 31,900 in the third quarter of 2011, how many of these jobs went to Singaporeans?
Mismatch of jobs and job seekers?
Is there a mismatch between vacancies to job seekers, with 53,000 of the 61,300 unemployed residents, being Singaporeans, on a seasonally adjusted basis in the third quarter of 2011?
Jobs that Singaporeans don't want?
Well, according to the MOM's Singapore Workforce 2010 Report, Service and Sales Workers had the highest unemployment rate of 5.5%, among all categories of workers. So, does this mean that even locals who worked in these jobs, and lost their jobs, had difficulty getting re-employed in these same jobs?
Why? To what extent has our liberal foreign worker policies contributed to this?
This is part 2 of a 3-part series on Jobs in Singapore by Leong Sze Hian. Part 1 is HERE.
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