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The labour market in Singapore

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Singapore has long been a popular destination for expatriates. With a booming economy, a wealth of industries and high standards of living, it is no surprise that the tiny nation continues to draw expatriates from around the world. However, the country has not been left unscathed by the global economic slowdown.

Expat employees in Singapore

Singapore’s economy is as advanced as it is diversified. Whether you are seeking opportunities in financial services, oil & gas, consulting or the hospitality sector, it seems that the tiny island nation has something to offer. Currently, more than a third of the population is of foreign origin, which is a testament to the wealth of opportunities present in the country.

Interestingly, in terms of skills, Singapore offers opportunities at both ends of the spectrum. On the one hand, there is high demand for low-skilled workers, who often come from nearby South East Asian countries, while, on the other hand, highly-skilled bankers, consultants and engineers find it easy to peddle their talent to the highest bidders. However, no analysis of the Singaporean market would be complete without mentioning the rising feeling of uneasiness that Singaporeans feel towards an ever-growing expatriate population.

By all measures, Singapore is still a welcoming nation and has displayed none of the extreme forms of anti-foreigner sentiment witnessed in the United States or Europe, but the situation has evolved negatively over recent years and nationalistic sentiments have increased. Ask any taxi driver in Singapore where he is from, and very often you will hear “I am a real Singaporean”, followed by a smile and a warm welcome.

Employment in Singapore

The latest figures published by the Ministry of Manpower indicate that the job market is currently far from being rosy, even though there is a sense of optimism for 2017. The Employment Outlook Survey of Manpower Group, a consultancy, paints a positive picture. Net employment for the period spanning January to March 2017 is expected to increase by 9%, and six of the sectors investigated in the report are expected to experience job growth:

  • Finance, Insurance & Real Estate
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining & Construction
  • Public Administration & Education
  • Services
  • Transportation & Utilities

The major casualties in terms of job losses in 2016 happened, expectedly, in the oil & gas, marine and financial sectors. With the global and Singaporean economic downturn showing signs of reprieve, it would be safe to expect further job creation, especially when it comes to skilled jobs. According to the Monetary Authority of Singapore, professionals in IT, engineering, finance, healthcare, and early childhood educators are and will remain in high demand over the coming years. For a country as dynamic as Singapore, it is unsurprising that software developers, data analytics professionals, and cyber security experts will find multiple suitors for their skills.

Salary and tax in Singapore

In terms of salaries, Singaporean companies offer internationally competitive rates in a low tax environment. As an indication, Hudson, an HR consultancy, provides indicative Singaporean salary bands, and expects a Tax Analyst to make SGD 65,000 to SGD 80,000, whereas a more experienced Director is expected to make between SGD 220,000 to SGD 240,000. In terms of salary growth, the outlook is also positive, with some consultancies reporting that more than 75% of Singaporean companies expect to increase salaries during 2017.

Work ethics and regulations in Singapore

The working culture in Singapore can be somewhat grueling, especially in competitive sectors such as banking. However, the Ministry of Manpower sets clear guidelines through the Employment Act. The Act is Singapore’s main labour law and sets out the terms and conditions for employees. Foreign employees holding a work pass are covered under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, in which the responsibilities of employers are outlined. It is important to consult the conditions set out by the Ministry of Manpower, in order to better understand what are the legal provisions for different types of jobs. The regulation covers hours of work, the breaks to which staff are entitled, overtime pay as well as the number of rest days. The working conditions for foreign workers are closely monitored, and it is essential for newcomers to know and respect the regulations in place.

Singapore is an exciting, cosmopolitan location in which to work. Even though the poor economic performance of recent years has slowed things down, opportunities still abound in the country, especially for the highly skilled.

 Useful links:

Manpower Group Employment Outlook Survey (Singapore): www.manpower.com.sg/
Monetary Authority of Singapore: www.mas.gov.sg/~/media/resource/publications/
Hudson Singapore Salary Guide: hudson.sg/portals/sg/documents/salary
Ministry of Manpower: www.mom.gov.sg

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