THE hiring crunch here is easing, although more than a third of employers still struggle to fill jobs, a survey by a global human resources firm has revealed.
ManpowerGroup, which surveyed 624 employers in the first quarter of this year, found 37 per cent facing hiring problems. This is down from the 44 per cent who did so last year, and 53 per cent the year before.
But the 37 per cent figure is still higher than the global average of 34 per cent.
Recruitment firm Adecco also says Singapore's talent shortage has eased slightly, but says it remains a concern.
On the other hand, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents about 145 trade associations and 4,000 firms, is surprised that the hiring crunch has eased.
President Teo Siong Seng says pockets of employers are still having trouble finding workers, particularly for manual jobs. He said if the hiring crunch has eased, it could be because some firms have slowed down their hiring, or are outsourcing jobs.
Singapore National Employers Federation executive director Koh Juan Kiat agreed that slower jobs growth might explain the apparent easing of the hiring crunch. In the first three months of this year, 27,400 new jobs were created, down from the 37,600 created in the last quarter of last year.
For the first time, production operators topped the list of jobs which are hardest to fill. This is so because such jobs involve shift work and the factories tend to be in far-flung places, said Mr Teo.
Even printing firm Winson Press, located relatively centrally in Kallang, has problems filling its vacancies.
Chief executive Tan Jit Khoon has had to turn to foreign workers instead; most of his 50-odd production operators are non-Singaporean.
Engineers and sales representatives - ranked the two toughest positions to fill in previous years - now rank third and fifth respectively.
Of the top 10 jobs which are hardest to fill, only one is new to the list - insurance employees such as qualified brokers and clerks.
In terms of jobs in general, nearly four in 10 employers said they are not getting enough applicants.
Some job seekers have unrealistic expectations; others prefer to wait for that perfect job to come along, said Singapore Human Resources Institute executive director David Ang.
Job image is also an issue, said Mr Tan, in reference to the impression that factories are 'hot and dirty' places. Many do not realise that this is no longer the case, he said.
Another factor behind the hiring crunch is that applicants lack the technical skills for the job at hand, said 14 per cent of the employers surveyed.
But ManpowerGroup's Singapore manager Linda Teo, warning against employers' simply accepting the situation, said: 'Employers may not think leaving important positions unfilled is a problem now, but they will in years to come, when it will be too late.'
A fifth of employers are tackling the problem by partnering with educational institutions to get talent.
Adecco South-east Asia regional director Lynne Ng has another strategy for full-time posts: outsource the job or make it a contract position.
Hardest posts to fill
1. Production operators
2. Accounting and finance staff
4. Secretaries, personal assistants, administrative assistants and office support staff
5. Sales representatives
7. Skilled trades workers
9. Insurance staff