SINGAPORE is one of the global labour markets with the least stress, according to a study of 31 economies by recruitment firm Hays. The Hays Global Skills Index for 2014 gives the Republic a score of 4.1, just behind two other economies, Italy and Belgium.

Chris Mead, regional director of Hays in Singapore, said: "Singapore's overall score of 4.1 is showing that the labour market is not experiencing as much stress as has historically been the case. Even though there is obvious stress in the labour markets with high talent mismatch and wage pressure in skilled jobs, the education system appears to be in good shape and the labour market is relatively flexible.

"If you look at Asia, Singapore is showing less labour stress than China, Hong Kong and Japan. But Singapore's wage pressures in skilled roles are higher than any other Asian (economies)."

In the Hays report, overall wage pressure in Singapore has halved from a year ago. Its score of 1.3 is the lowest of all while Hong Kong leads the pack at 10 out of 10.

However, Singapore ranks high in terms of wage pressure in high-skill industries, at 8.5. This compares with perfect 10s for New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. According to Hays, a higher score indicates that wages in high-skill industries are growing faster than in low-skill industries relative to the past, which is indicative of sector-specific skill shortages, such as in engineering or technology.

Overall wage pressure and wage pressure in high-skill industries are two of the seven indicators that make up the index. The rest are education flexibility, labour market participation, labour market flexibility, talent mismatch and wage pressure in high-skill jobs.

For the last indicator, Singapore scored six, down from 8.5 a year ago. It is fifth after Canada, Germany, Ireland and the Czech Republic. This, according to Hays, indicates that wages in Singapore for the highly skilled are still rising faster than that for the low-skilled. "In other words, Singapore's skills shortage is most acute for highly skilled candidates in high-skill industries."

"Yet," it added, "the low score of 1.3 for overall wage pressure suggests that, for all other talent, real wages are not rising quickly compared to the long-term trend. In other words, it's only the highly skilled candidates in high-skill industries for whom wage pressure is evident."

Mr Mead said: "Singapore's talent shortage of both highly skilled professionals and in high-skill industries has reached a point where it is now a hindrance to the effective operation of businesses in the city-state."

Some industries like engineering, technology and life sciences, require higher-skilled staff than others, he noted. "Since it takes time to undertake the training necessary to work in those industries, it potentially makes them more vulnerable to skill shortages as the number of people qualified to start work cannot be changed quickly."

Mr Mead also pointed out that the shortage of such professionals are partly due to government initiatives that endorse local Singaporean hires. "As employers react quickly to ensure they have the right proportion of local, permanent resident and work pass holders in their headcount, the ability to secure the right talent - whether that is a highly valued locally experienced candidate or a specialist from overseas - will remain employers' greatest challenge."