In a Facebook post on Friday (20 March), Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo said that job vacancies in Singapore are expected to fall further this year due to “uncertainties in 2020”.

She said this following the release of the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) job vacancies report for the year 2019, which saw the number of job openings dropped because of uncertain economic conditions.

In 2019, there were only 52,900 job vacancies as compared to 63,300 openings in 2018. However, job vacancies remained available across all sector last year, the report highlighted.

It elaborated that job opportunities were mainly in information & communication, public administration & education, professional services, financial & insurance services, as well as manufacturing.

In Mrs Teo post, she stated that the “findings have been overtaken by the evolving COVID-19 outbreak and a global slow-down”. However, she noted that this is not surprising.

“There were fewer vacancies overall in 2019 but still many opportunities in the growth sectors. However, given the uncertainties in 2020, we expect vacancies to fall further,” the Minister wrote.

She added, “Hiring sentiments have weakened which means jobseekers will have a more challenging time.”

As such, she said that her Ministry’s focus is to help people to stay in their current jobs. By doing so, MOM can then “direct job matching support to those who need it most.”

She added, “This is similar to our approach in handling the public health crisis – keep most people away from hospitals, so healthcare workers have the capacity to focus on treating those who have more serious conditions.”

According to MOM’s report, 42 percent of vacancies in 2019 were for newly created positions as a result of business expansion and formation.

The growth sectors, like ICT, professional services, financial and insurance services, wholesale trade, and healthcare have above-average proposition of vacancies for newly created positions.

Additionally, demand was also there for software, web and multimedia developers, system analysts, commercial and marketing sales executives, business development managers, as well as nurses and healthcare assistants.

On the other hand, for 51 percent of professional, manager, executive and technician (PMET) vacancies such as software, web and multimedia developers, and commercial and marketing sales executives, employers put greater emphasis on the candidates’ skills, work experience and attitude, more than on academic qualifications.

With these vacancies, the lack of necessary specialised skills was also a common problem faced by employers when wanting to hire them, said MOM in a press release on Friday.

It added, “For non-PMET positions, it was usually due to a mismatch in wage expectations.”

Due to this rather uncertain situation, Mrs Teo said that this is the reason why the S$4 billion Stablisation and Support Package announced beginning of this year has “a strong focus on saving jobs and protecting workers”.

In reference to the findings of the report, the Minister said that they are “still relevant”.

However, she noted that the job-skills mismatch is still a problem that her Ministry has to tackle. “During such times when business is down, we want to work with employers to reskill and upskill their workers so that they are ready for new job opportunities when the economy recovers,” Mrs Teo stated.

She continued, “That may be a long way off, but it’s still a good way to make something out of very bad situation.”

MOM and Workforce Singapore, along with tripartite partners, will also assist individuals in their 40s and 50s via the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support Package, she noted.

“This is a tough time. MOM is here to help. Our lines are sometimes overwhelmed, as are our officers. I seek your kind patience as we try our best to respond to everyone who has reached out,” Mrs Teo.

She ended her post by saying that she will share more details in the next couple of weeks.

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