THE effects of a tight labour market continue to be felt in the fourth quarter of this year, according to the Employment Outlook Q4 2014 Report by PrimeStaff Management Services, a leading human resource consultancy.

As in the previous quarter, hiring in Q4 will be mainly to fill vacancies, rather than recruiting for business expansion. Retrenchments of any significance are unlikely while the unemployment rate will remain largely unchanged from the previous quarter, hovering around 2 per cent.  


Industry outlook

PrimeStaff expects the usual Q4 manpower challenges to return, such as the spike in demand for workers in the hospitality, retail, and food & beverage sectors due to the festive season. 

Staffing in the service industry continues to be a challenge and this will be exacerbated by the surge in manpower needs owing to seasonal hiring for the festive period.

The other “hot” hiring industries this quarter are the information technology (IT), finance and finance-related sectors. The greater demand for IT personnel is due to the increased utilisation of IT solutions in response to the emphasis on productivity by the Government. 

The HR consultancy also foresees more hiring in the finance and finance-related sectors because of growing demand for financial services in Singapore.


Recruitment and HR trends

Similar trends that were seen in the third quarter will persist into Q4, such as:


High employee turnover

In this tight labour market, employers will continue to experience high staff turnover especially at PMET (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) levels.


Greater wage expectations

A manpower shortage naturally drives up wages. Therefore, employees will continue to expect higher wages especially at entry level. Following which, they will accept slightly lower increments but only temporarily, as they will be on the lookout for better opportunities and will jump ship once they receive a more attractive offer. 


Continued demand for Singaporeans and PRs

Singaporean and Permanent Resident workers will still be in great demand by employers as the inflow of foreign workers tightens further.


Workforce optimisation

To stay competitive, employers will need to optimise the existing workforce so workers can expect to take on greater responsibilities while companies simultaneously explore ways to increase productivity via innovation and technology. More companies will also look to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) as a possible solution to cope with the reduced reliance on manpower. 


Increased emphasis on employee retention

Companies will focus on developing and implementing effective talent retention strategies to retain their employees as the manpower crunch persists.


Hiring of older workers

There will be an increase in the hiring of mature workers aged 50 and above due to the following factors — the higher retirement age instituted, longer mortality rate, general manpower shortage, and the Government’s continued encouragement by way of incentives/grants.


For employers and job seekers

It is currently more of an employee’s market due to the fact that Singaporean and PR workers are in high demand against the backdrop of an extremely low unemployment rate.

In the light of these market dynamics, here are some recommendations for both employers and job-seekers for Q4 of this year:


For employers:

•   Know what you need: Be crystal-clear about your manpower requirements before starting the hiring process; determine the exact skills/experience/qualities you are looking for and then go in pursuit of these candidates. 


•   Implement HR best practices: Design and put in place HR best practices as these will help keep staff happy and motivated while enhancing your employer branding to help attract staff.


•   Offer higher salaries: Due to the manpower crunch in the local workforce, employers should expect to pay more to attract Singaporean and PR workers.


•   Invest to engage: Companies need to invest in programmes to keep their employees happy and engaged. More importantly, this will help prevent staff from leaving to join competitors.


•   Offer training opportunities: Employees who benefit from training are better equipped to contribute to their organisation. They are also likely to be more motivated and more productive. When they perform well, they receive greater recognition and rewards such as monetary incentives and promotion opportunities, which lead them to stay on longer in the organisation.


For job-seekers:

•   Manage your expectations: It may be an employee’s market but don’t exploit the situation by being too demanding in terms of salary and other expectations relating to the job offer. 


•   Stay employable: Don’t be too complacent either. Upgrade yourself by attending relevant courses whenever possible in order to bring more value to your new company and role once you land the job.


Article by Ronald Lee, managing director of PrimeStaff Management Services, a human resource consultancy based in Singapore with a growing regional reach. PrimeStaff provides a comprehensive suite of recruitment services across a wide range of positions, functions and industries in the Asia-Pacific region. For more information, call 6222-3310, e-mail or visit