EMPLOYEES are at their gloomiest for two years over the number of jobs available in the market.
In a new online survey, Berkley Recruitment Group Asia found that only 54 per cent of about 1,700 workers polled thought there were 'enough' or 'lots of' job opportunities.
This was sharply down from 80 per cent in a similar survey last year and the lowest since early 2010, says Berkley chief executive Steve Greenwood.
He pointed to the uncertainty about the global economy, 'especially with what's happening in the financial sector', as the main culprit for the bleak mood.
Berkley, based in Singapore, conducted the two-week survey last month, across workers in a broad range of industries but with a focus on the science and technology sector and executive-level corporate roles in multinational firms.
Mr Greenwood said that if Singapore workers are switching jobs this year, they are most likely not motivated by the prospect of any huge pay jumps.
Only 12 per cent of survey respondents thought they would get a salary boost of at least 10 per cent this year whether they were looking to change jobs or not.
More Singapore workers are bracing themselves for pay freezes, the survey indicates, as compared with last year.
About 23 per cent said they have already received - or are expecting - a pay freeze this year, up from 16 per cent the same time last year.
In fact, Singapore employees are among the gloomiest in the region.
Mr Greenwood noted: 'Job sentiment in Singapore is lower than that of some of its less developed neighbours such as Indonesia and the Philippines.'
In Indonesia, a buoyant 85 per cent of respondents felt there were 'enough' or 'lots of' jobs, and in the Philippines the figure was 83 per cent.
Still, on a brighter note for Singapore, employees felt slightly better off than workers in major developed economies.
In the United States, only 45 per cent of respondents felt there were at least enough jobs. In Britain, it was 44 per cent and in France 42 per cent.
Between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of respondents in these countries felt their salaries would stagnate this year.
Mr Greenwood told The Straits Times over the phone that 'up until towards the end of last year, it was more of a candidates' market' in Singapore.
'Now the balance is swinging more towards the employer. If it continues we're going to have more of an employer's market... Candidates will become more realistic,' he said.
He added that hiring in the service sector would likely remain 'quite strong'. This would be true of the medical devices sector as well, he added.
Ms Stella Tang, associate director at specialty recruiter Robert Half International, said that demand for finance and accounting professionals was likely to remain steady.
But Mr Greenwood said he had not seen 'bulk hiring' in banks, nor 'huge investments in new sites or facilities' from the pharmaceutical sector.
Other recruitment firms mostly agreed that Singapore employees were feeling less cheerful about job prospects.
Ms Andrea Ross, managing director of professional recruiting consultancy Robert Walters, said: 'Employee optimism is definitely slightly lower compared to the same time last year, amid a climate of global economic uncertainty... In such a sentiment-driven market, employees are likely to remain cautious too.'
But Mr Jerome Bouin, managing director of recruiter Michael Page International, disagrees.
He believes employee optimism was weaker than it was last year only in the financial services sector, which went through a 'rough patch' in the first three months of the year.
Mr Bouin added that local banks were still recruiting, and said he expected firms in general to add staff in the second quarter of the year.