THE good news is that the vast majority of bosses are either upbeat or neutral over staff numbers, but the bad news is that Singapore has the region's highest levels of employee burnout.

The findings come from a quarterly report on employment trends released yesterday by global recruitment firm Hudson.

For the report, a total of 426 Singapore employers were surveyed in August on their views for the October-December period.

An overwhelming 93.2 per cent of the employers surveyed said they would increase or maintain headcount for the rest of the year.

Some 35.9 per cent plan to add to headcount, while 57.3 per cent will maintain staffing. Only 6.8 per cent plan to make cuts.

Hudson noted: "The findings reflect the measured optimism characterising the Singapore economy, which has remained relatively stable, enjoys low unemployment and benefits from sustained job creation initiatives."

The most bullish sector was health care and life sciences, with 56.7 per cent of firms planning to hire more staff this quarter.

The consumer segment was similarly upbeat, with 53.7 per cent of employers expecting to hire staff over the next three months.

Information technology and telecommunication enterprises were among the most likely to lower headcount, with 16.7 per cent of employers indicating that jobs could go.

Cuts also loom elsewhere, with 7.5 per cent of bosses in manufacturing and industry indicating they plan to reduce staff, while 7.4 per cent of firms in banking and financial services say the same.

SIM University's School of Business senior lecturer Wilson Wong said: "Singapore's employment market could worsen if the global macroeconomic situation deteriorates... manufacturing would bear the brunt of this downturn."

The survey also noted that workloads have increased, with staff here indicating that they are the worst-off of all Asia-Pacific markets studied, said Hudson. It found that 60.8 per cent of employees here said the demands have increased over the past year, and 45.5 per cent now work 51 hours a week or more.

That seems to be behind another stark finding: 32.6 per cent of Singapore workers surveyed say they have experienced burnout - the highest in the region.

Hudson Singapore executive general manager Andrew Tomich noted that all employers need to be aware that there is a great deal they can do to prevent burnout.

"They need to provide greater clarity around roles and delivery expectations, improve alignment of employee skill sets and job requirements, and hire contractors to support employees at risk of burn-out."

Mr Wong added: "It's about time that employers realise that longer working hours do not necessarily translate into greater productivity.

"For instance, France with its 35-hour work week has, ironically, one of the highest productivity rates in the industrialised world."