Career News (June 2020)

Local news on the labour front for July 2020.

Highlights of manpower news in Singapore this month included:

More than 187,000 employees’ wages affected in the last three months
More than 4,800 employers notified the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) about cost-saving measures that impacted their employees’ monthly salaries. The majority of these came from sectors hard-hit by Covid-19, such as retail.

New rules for employment agencies to ensure fair hiring
As part of government moves to strengthen hiring for Singaporeans during this period, employment agencies will be required to abide by new rules to ensure they consider locals fairly for positions. These include having consistent and fair selection criteria throughout the recruitment process and developing a Singaporean core. Employment agencies must also make “reasonable efforts” to attract Singaporeans to the positions they are trying to fill.

Jobs abound in growing infocomm sector, but workers must be prepared to retrain and upskill
Jobs are available for Singaporeans in the infocommunications space over the next three years, with the Republic facing a huge shortage of professionals, said Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan. He elaborated that he saw job opportunities springing up in what he called “high-tech, high-touch and high-art” areas – programming and IT, healthcare and social service, and painting and writing.

Satellite career centres to open in July
From 1 July 2020, job seekers can visit any of the eight satellite career centres in the heartland for career matching services and advice. These centres, located in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Jurong West, Sengkang, Woodlands and Yishun, are the first batch of satellite career centres to help job seekers find the most suitable career pathway based on their needs.

No mid-year bonus for civil servants, one-time off pay cut for “superscale” officers
The Public Service Division announced that the “unprecedented economic crisis of Covid-19” has led to the decision to not give a mid-year bonus to civil servants this year. Also, public officers in “superscale grades”, with salaries starting from $11,000/month, will be taking a pay cut. This comes after senior public service officers in key leadership positions took a half-month pay cut, which was announced in February.  

Grab cuts headcount by 5%
Ride-hailing service Grab is cutting about 360 jobs, or about 5% of its headcount, amid the growing economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. The restructuring comes a week after Singapore’s largest private-hire operator decided to limit its performance-based commission rebate to 18,000 drivers, and dropped a series of incentive schemes for drivers, including monthly trip target bonuses and birthday rewards. Grab had earlier cut the pay of its senior management by up to 20 per cent and encouraged staff to take voluntary no-pay leave as part of cost-cutting measures. The uptick in its food delivery business, as most Singaporeans stayed home to work, was not enough to make up for the revenue fall, Reuters reported.

Traineeships will help mid-career workers prepare for opportunities when economy recovers
Traineeships will open up pathways for mid-career and new jobseekers in this uncertain climate. “[These] programmes will enable them to acquire relevant work experience in companies that are building up their capabilities in industries that are well positioned for growth in the future,” said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo. The traineeships allow companies to tap on trainees who have undergone three months of classroom-based lessons and then assess them when they do three months of on-the-job training.

Singapore’s unemployment rate at its highest in 10 years
The unemployment rate among Singapore citizens rose from 3.3% – 3.5%, and among residents – or Singapore citizens and permanent residents – from 3.2% to 3.3%. These are the highest numbers in 10 years, and the lowest this year. MOM attributed much of the decline to significant cutbacks in the number of foreign workers but local employment also dropped slightly due to a sharper-than-expected fall in headcounts in trade and tourism-related industries. Manpower Minister Josephine Teo also noted that low-wage workers continue to work and get paid, as they are mostly in essential services.

Job vacancies likely to shrink in new employment landscape
Singapore, and the rest of the world, is heading into uncharted waters with the global pandemic still affecting many countries. Job vacancies are likely to fall, employers are reluctant to hire and a large pool of workers is expected to be looking for jobs in the coming months. Some 150,000 workers have faced pay cuts of more than 25% since 12 March. Retrenchments may also spike after the higher wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme – which were raised for the circuit breaker period – taper off for some firms once the circuit breaker ends on 1 June and the first phase of reopening the economy begins the following day.

Over 2,800 companies offer over 19,000 traineeships for graduates
Applications for traineeships under SGUnited open on 1 June, and saw approximately 20,000 traineeships on offer to fresh polytechnic, university and ITE graduates. A variety of roles, ranging from familiar ones in infocommunications, engineering and marketing to more niche positions, such as a funeral director assistant and food technologist, have been curated under the programme. Manpower Minister Josephine Teo urged graduates to embrace the opportunity to work in different industries and get a grasp on the different careers on offer. “While these traineeships may not be the same as a job, they will help young graduates to build networks, skill sets and resumes. This in turn will stand them in good stead in landing a permanent role when the hiring demand picks up,” she said in a Facebook post.

Survey shows hiring in Q3 among Singapore’s weakest
The labour market is showing signs of strain as businesses put off recruitment amid the uncertainty brought about by Covid-19. The hiring outlook among Singapore employers for the next quarter has reached the weakest level since 2009, according to a report released on 9 June.

Starting salaries mostly hold steady
Data from recruitment firms shows a slight decline in the average salary for top entry-level jobs such as information technology (IT) executives, accounting roles and recruitment consultants. For diploma holders, the pay is $2,300 this year, down from $2,600. To provide more opportunities, however, the public service is amping up hiring this year, alongside recruitment efforts for Covid-19 related positions that started in March.

Mr Vinay Dua, managing director of CareerBuilder Singapore, said that based on entry-level jobs on the firm’s portals JobsCentral and BrightMinds, the average salary for the top five jobs so far this year is $2,907, down from $2,935 for the whole of last year. These include customer service, accounting and clinical or medical jobs.

Employers that retrench workers but call it differently face penalties
Employers who retrench their staff, but disguise it as something else to avoid giving out retrenchment benefits run the risk of incurring penalties, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo told Parliament. “If a company is found to have disguised their retrenchments, MOM can and will consider withdrawing government support like JSS and suspending their work pass privileges,” she added.

National Jobs Council to pay special attention to mid-career workers
No employer should think someone is too old to hire, or that those with higher skills are overqualified or not adaptable enough, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in a Facebook post. He reiterated the importance of considering workers fairly, without discrimination against race or age. Helping people tap 100,000 opportunities in the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package is a key focus of the government.

Workplaces forced to cease operations for forcing staff to return to office
MOM has been conducting checks during Phase 1 of re-opening, and several offices have been forced to stop operations for failing to implement adequate safe management measures, including instructing employees to return to the office instead of allowing them to work from home. In other cases, fines were issues to employers for breaching safe distancing measures. MOM continues to check workplace and respond to whistleblower reports.

Government to set up SG Digital Office to help stallholders digitalise
This new SG Digital Office (SDO) will recruit 1,000 digital ambassadors by the end of June to help stallholders and seniors learn how to use digital tools. The plan is to build on and accelerate existing efforts to equip every business and individual – including seniors and small businesses – with digital tools and skills

Manpower Minister Josephine emphasises the importance of traineeships
Both employers and job seekers can end up as big winners if traineeships for mid-career professionals can take off on a large scale, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said. Job seekers will get professional or industrial attachments in companies which may be more beneficial than classroom training, while the companies get skilled workers. Hence, it is important to curate programmes well to ensure they reach out to the correct personnel and impart useful knowledge.

SNEF Director wins May Day Award
Trade union veteran Koh Juan Kiat has received the distinguished service award, the highest accolade in this year’s May Day Awards. The award is conferred by the National Trades Union Congress on tripartite partners that have made significant contributions towards better wages, welfare and prospects for workers. Mr Koh was involved in major initiatives such as the introduction of the quantitative wage guidelines for low-wage workers in 2012 and the extension of the Employment Act to cover all employees.

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