Unemployed professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) will get more targeted help in finding jobs through smaller job fairs, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said yesterday.

The shift in focus aims to help jobless PMETs find work sooner, and keep the long-term unemployment rate in check, he added.

For PMETs who have been out of work for six months or longer, "organising a job fair with 10,000 jobs won't solve the problem", Mr Lim told reporters at a job fair.

He said these workers need personalised guidance from career coaches and employers who are willing to hire and train them, even if they lack experience in a sector. 

Mr Lim's message for employers: "Don't keep looking for so-called plug-and-play kind of workers. Don't keep looking for workers who can fit into your job 100 per cent."

His comments came after the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released a bleak report on Wednesday which showed that PMETs were the hardest hit by the tepid job market.

They made up 72 per cent of the local workers who were made redundant last year. This is far higher than their share of 55 per cent of the resident workforce.

They are also finding it harder to get back to work. While about 48 per cent of workers who were made redundant last year managed to find new jobs, the rate of re-entry for PMETs was 44 per cent. 

To help PMETs get back to work, MOM announced various measures this month to help them switch careers and offered more incentives to employers to hire them.

The move includes training allowances of up to $4,000 a month for those who go on training attachments, and offering employers who hire PMETs aged 40 and above, who have been unemployed for over a year, higher wage subsidies under the Career Support Programme (CSP) for 18 months, up from 12 months.

To make it easier for smaller firms to join the programme, the minimum salary of eligible workers will also be lowered from $4,000 to $3,600 per month for them. 

Yesterday, Workforce Singapore and the Employment and Employability Institute gathered more than 20 employers prepared to hire unemployed PMETs in a one-day, small-scale job fair that offered about 260 jobs. All the jobs pay at least $3,600 a month. 

Mr Lim noted that enhanced measures saw an increase in the jobs offered at the fair from 150 to about 260. More workers also qualified for schemes like the CSP.

He also said that while the local unemployment rate and long-term unemployment rate - the proportion of residents who could not find a job for 25 weeks or more - had risen to 3 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively, they are "considered relatively on the lower side by international standards".

To ensure these rates remain low, the Government is stepping up efforts like organising targeted job fairs to help unemployed workers back to work, especially those out of work for 25 weeks or more, he said.

"The longer they stay unemployed, the harder (it is) for them to come back (to work)," he said.

Mr Lim added that the quality of jobs also matters.

He noted that business leaders he met this week appealed for a relaxation of the foreign worker quota. However, they need to find a longer-term solution.

"It is not a sustainable solution. The jobs are there. If they cannot find workers, can we tranform the job, make it more of a better job to be attractive to locals?" he said.

"Moving forward, the quality of jobs is a factor that is going to determine whether we are able to overcome this potential stickiness in our unemployment rate."