HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Singapore

You’re hired: Total employment in Singapore rose by 28,300 in Q1 2011

Contract workers are getting a 10% premium over perm staff and bean counters are in high demand.

The Ministry of Manpower iissued its Labour Market Report for the first quarter of 2011. The report revealed that the labour market tightened further, amid healthy economic growth in the first quarter of 2011.

Employment creation was fairly strong in the first quarter of 2011, though it has eased from the robust gains during the initial rebound from the 2009 recession. Total employment rose by 28,300 in the first quarter of 2011 and most of the gains in the first quarter came from services.

According to observations by Robert Half, a specialist recruiter of finance and accounting professionals, Singapore’s banking and financial services sector continue to experience strong growth in line with the economy, and is leading the way in hiring as organisations expand their staff strength in the front, middle and back-office spaces.

Investment hires are driving the bulk of new appointments, compared with replacement hires that were more prevalent just after the economic downturn. This trend is particularly noticeable within multinational companies with regional headquarters in Singapore, as these firms step up their recruitment efforts to support their expansion plans in Asia. In addition, many finance institutions are also centralising their back-end operations in Asia, resulting in greater demand for middle to back-office talent.

Demand for talent also remains firm in business critical areas such as risk control and management, as organisations reinforce their internal governance practices in the wake of lessons learnt from the downturn.

The contract market remains positive as contractors continue to be sought after for project-based work because of their niche skills set. Contractors also offer an effective solution to employers struggling to locate permanent staff due to the ongoing skills shortage in the industry.

Contract workers with niche skills command a pay premium of 5%-10% over their permanent counterparts, albeit without the same level of employee benefits. Nevertheless, with improved business sentiment and performances, many organisations are converting more contract staff to permanent staff as they prepare themselves for long term growth.

Amid the buoyant hiring market and ongoing talent shortage, Robert Half advises employers to:
· Ramp up training and development opportunities for existing staff, and continue focusing on staff retention as well as succession planning, especially for “star performers” who will drive their organisations’ long-term growth.
· Review and align compensation packages with the market and individual skill sets in order to continue attracting and retaining good talent.

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