What’s happening with the Singapore job market?

Prime Minister Lee said that “Singapore’s economy is doing better than it did last year”, but he maintains a “cautiously optimistic” outlook. Good economy but at the same time redundancies will grow, which is why unemployment is creeping up.

Are you confused yet? Why is the country progressing economically, but yet there are job losses?

The factors responsible could be narrowed to these two: it has in part been a.) designed like this and b.) in part a consequence of modernisation. 

Designed like this

Do you remember, not too long ago, Singaporeans was so upset with sharing our country with foreigners? Some of us still are, but in 2011 the sentiment was so strong it almost caused the PAP to be thrown out. Since then, a mountain of measures have been put into place to regulate the flow of foreign employees.

In most countries, governments are desperate to protect old types of jobs – no matter how inefficient they are. In Singapore, we’re trying to destroy them and accelerate their demise. All the technological funds that you see are designed to encourage companies to eliminate the need for wasteful manpower usage.

That is why you see restaurants and retail outlets increasingly using tablets and apps to make your orders. In the hotels, factories and in industries all over, complex machines have shrunk manpower need. What used to be a 10 man operation has now become one.

Industries guilty of being overweight with lots of low-waged, low-valued jobs are waking to the fact that it is going to become increasingly expensive for them to operate here. The options are to either, restructure their businesses to high-value, high-wage ones or to move out of Singapore.

Keeping outdated jobs and sluggish companies here are going to be bad for the country. Sooner or later, these jobs will disappear. Better to have them phase them out in a controlled manner, than see them evaporate and have redundancies happen overnight. They also hog precious manpower, this manpower could be freed for companies whom pay better and have better prospects.

Consequence of modernisation

Modernisation is bad news – to those whom are unprepared for it, and to those whom do not update themselves to stay relevant. It is a fact of life and it is how this planet stays exciting, sees progress and brings greater happiness to more.

Technology 

It is nothing new for jobs to be displaced by technology, but greater advancements in recent years have seen larger number of industries being wiped out. The most obvious ones are those that we interact with daily: Uber, Grab, Redmart, Taobao, Amazon, Netflix, Air BnB, Property Guru, SgCarMart, the digital camera and many, many, many more of such apps.

Because of these technologies, retail businesses, car trades, property agents, insurance agents, supermarkets, drivers, couriers, hotels and large scale bookstores (and their printers) are finding themselves clean out of business in a matter of months. Along with it, scores of employees find themselves out of a job – made redundant.

Singapore is not a cheap place to setup shop

There are many benefits to setting up shop in Singapore, cost is not one of them. Especially not labour cost. For this reason, Singapore is attracting companies that are more complex and as a consequence, will hire talent who have more complex skills. If a person has little skills, then there are few jobs for this person because the low-skilled, low-wage jobs will not be found here.

There are jobs in Singapore… lots of them in fact. Even though unemployment has inched up, we are still considered to be at full employment and hence require supplementary manpower from overseas to make up for the shortfall.

The only thing to address is – are our people skilled enough to take on the jobs? Do we want to take on the jobs in the first place? Are we hungry enough?

These are questions best answered by ourselves. 

About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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