CLOSE to half of Singapore companies are looking to hire more staff in the second half of this year, but jobseekers looking at flexi-work arrangements may be disappointed.

In a hiring trends report by recruitment and human resources consultancy Achieve, 26 per cent of the 450 multinational corporations and medium to large-sized enterprises polled have flexi-work arrangements in place for employees. Another 5 per cent is currently working to put such programmes in place.

Of the 300-odd companies which do not offer staff the choice to work from outside the office, three quarters said that it was not feasible in their industries. The nine industry sectors polled were: banking and finance; healthcare and pharmaceutical; IT and telecommunications; lifestyle, retail, and food and beverage; shipping and logistics; industrial manufacturing and engineering; oil and gas; professional services; and property and construction.

Among these companies where flexi-work is not an option, 12 per cent feared a drop in productivity, while 4 per cent thought that staff lacked the discipline needed. In contrast, half of the companies with flexi-work arrangements attributed their programmes to the desire to retain current staff.

Speaking to BT, Achieve chief executive officer Joshua Yim conceded that "only selected industries can implement such policies", but added that the slow embrace of flexi-work also spoke of a "conservative" office culture which is "generally not so advanced" in terms of giving employees the freedom to work from home or work more flexible hours.

Companies are also ramping up their recruitment drives, with 48 per cent looking to expand their workforce in the coming months, compared to 32 per cent during the same period last year.

Mr Yim said that companies usually scale down recruitment in the second half of the year, so this increase in hiring is "quite a very good sign".

He added: "Business confidence is very strong in Singapore and this region."

The top three sectors hunting for staff are the shipping and logistics sector, where 62 per cent of companies will be hiring, followed by the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector at 57 per cent, and property and construction at 54 per cent.

Slowest workforce growth was seen in the banking and finance world, where just 36 per cent of companies plan to take in more staff and 12 per cent of companies are considering handing out the pink slip. This also makes banking and finance the sector with the largest plans for retrenchment out of all sectors surveyed.

Hiring plans for the year reflect companies' modestly optimistic growth outlook. About 56 per cent of companies anticipate growth of under 2 per cent, and a full 10 per cent are bracing themselves for a projected contraction in business in the second half of this year.

And, while 83 per cent of the companies that are are hiring will be wooing prospective recruits with increments of up to a tenth of their last drawn salary, current staff must be content with existing pay cheques as 43 per cent of companies polled do not intend to increase wages from the salaries drawn in the first half of the year.