SINGAPORE workers can expect an average of 4.7 per cent pay rise this year, 0.5 per cent less than last year's 5.2 per cent salary increment.

Those working in the life sciences and pharmaceuticals and services sectors can expect fatter salary increases (5.7 per cent), as also those in the utilities sector (5.3 per cent) and the oil and gas sector (5.1 per cent).

These figures come from global management consulting firm Hay Group's polling of 193 Singapore-based companies on their business sentiments and salary and bonus projections for the next 12 months; the firms, surveyed in March, were a mix of local and foreign-owned companies from both private and public sectors.

In its report titled Building the Capabilities of the Next Generation Workforce, Hay made a less optimistic prediction for next year, when the average pay rise is forecast at 4.4 per cent.

Victor Chan, Hay's regional general manager for productised services in Singapore and Asean, said: "Organisations are feeling the need to manage business cost in a slower economic environment this year, and a substantial part of operating business in Singapore is managing the cost of employment."

He noted that managing this category of cost was cited as a top business priority by nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of the organisations surveyed.

Meanwhile, the average bonus payout is 2.3 months for a 12-month period, 0.2 month less than last year's average of 2.5 months.

In a reflection of the tight labour market, 57 per cent of the survey respondents said they plan to make changes to overall staffing levels.

The top employee groups in high demand are junior professionals (35 per cent), middle management (34 per cent) and clerical or operations (25 per cent).

The report said individuals with specialist knowledge or industry-specific technical skills will continue to command a higher premium than those in customer service and marketing jobs.

Asked whether they would re-employ their eligible retiring employees who turn 62, 88 per cent of the organisations said yes.

But when asked whether they had done so in the last year, 40 per cent of the survey respondents said no.

In 27 per cent of the organisations, re-employment was offered to more than three quarters of their retiring employees; 28 per cent of the organisations reported that under one in 10 such employees was re-employed.

Those in middle management or who are seasoned professionals have the best chance of being re-contracted: 70 per cent of the surveyed companies re-hired such people; 65 per cent did so for employees in clerical or operations jobs, 64 per cent for employees in supervisory or junior professional roles, and 41 per cent for senior management or executive-level employees.

Mr Chan said: "This statistical breakdown of re-employment contracts by employee levels could imply that while senior management incumbents can play advisory roles, organisations are striking a balance by injecting new talents as part of their succession planning for the longer term."