THE Singapore employment market is changing. Due to the Asian work culture’s focus on job longevity and stability, the contracting option has been a less popular method over permanent positions.

However, over the last three to four years, global recruitment consultancy Robert Walters has seen contract and temporary recruitment methods slowly emerging and being utilised by a variety of employers.

Contract positions were initially implemented by the banking and finance sectors and the larger multinational companies. Over time, contracting has become a more prevalent hiring approach for businesses of all sizes across sectors, especially in the past 12 to 18 months.

A positive shift has been seen in the recruitment level for temporary and contract staff. This can be attributed to the global credit crunch and the knock-on effect this had on staffing levels and headcount budgets in companies.

In this evolving contract market, employers are beginning to recognise the differences in attracting candidates to interim positions over permanent roles.

As some benefits are only applicable to permanent staff, a five to 10 per cent increment on the normal basic salary for a similar-level permanent role has been offered to contract candidates instead.

Companies have also started paying out a completion bonus at the end of the contract period to further retain candidates.

Trends for 2013

Moving into 2013, it is probable that more employers will show a heightened interest in hiring people on a temporary basis. The new wave of recruitment stems from the desire for a more flexible workforce, the increase in restrictions to hiring permanent staff and the greater availability of skilled contract staff.

Let’s explore the highlights of this approach, which will be fundamentally beneficial for both candidates and organisations:

For employers

An increasing number of companies are recognising the benefits that contract and temporary hires can offer them.

Contract positions can help organisations manage staffing issues not just momentarily, but also qualify as a viable long-term headcount solution for these reasons:

* They bridge a resource gap for a fixed period of time without increasing headcount;

* They can step in for staff on long-term sick leave or maternity leave effectively, relieving added pressure on existing teams;

* Highly skilled professionals can manage or support a particular project for just the required time;

* They are a source of tried-and-tested full-time employees. Contracting offers an organisation the opportunity to see first-hand how a candidate operates in a role and his integration into the company culture. If the contract worker has done well, the organisation can make him a permanent offer at the end of the contract assignment;

* A pool of contractors offers more flexibility in maintaining the work-force balance in a downturn;

* Organisations have the flexibility to transfer talents from one project to another based on appropriate skills sets required for different projects; and

* Headcount issues can be easily managed by hiring talents on contract and outsourcing the responsibility of HR administration to professional organisations.

For employees

Whether it is a challenging or booming market, contracting will be a sustainable option.

There are more options in the market for job seekers who are willing to keep an open mind and consider contract work. Here are some benefits of taking up a contract role:

* It opens the door to a new industry and is possibly a good arrangement for those who are in-between jobs;

* You get the opportunity to test out a role without having to commit to an employer, before deciding to move long-term into a similar position;

* You can prove yourself in a multinational corporation environment and get recognised for other roles;

* You have the chance to experience salary increments from one contract to another instead of having to wait for annual increments;

* From a lifestyle perspective, it provides you with more freedom to plan longer holidays in between contracts or to invest your time in training and courses to upgrade and develop your skills;

* As part-time work is very scarce in Singapore, shorter contracts can also offer more down time between roles that you can spend with your family; and

* It can be a great route to getting your career started if you are a trailing spouse, an employee newly arrived in Singapore, or a mother returning to work.

There has been a significant increase in the demand for contract and temporary employees, and the trend is set to continue.

As more candidates broaden their portfolios to include this type of employment, recruitment activity will continue to thrive.

These opportunities will enable candidates to view the changing requirements of a contract role with more positivity.