Monday, 28 January 2013

56,400 job vacancies? Really?

28th January 2013

I refer to the article “Job vacancies up 4.4% in Sep 2012” (Channel NewsAsia, Jan 28).

It states that “The number of job vacancies rose by 4.4 per cent to hit 56,400 in September 2012, amid a tight labour market.”

So many vacancies, yet so many unemployed?

Have you ever wondered why the seasonally adjusted figures for the number of unemployed were 59,600 for residents and 53,000 for citizens, as of September 2012, when there were 56,400 vacancies?

If we add to the above unemployed residents, the 8,600 discouraged workers, of whom nearly two in three (64%) were aged 50 & over, which were last reported in the MOM’s Labour Force 2011 report, the number of unemployed may increase to about 68,200.

Note: Discouraged workers are persons outside the labour force who were not actively looking for a job because they believed their job search would not yield results.

If we add to the above, some of the 153,600 or 14.4% of economically inactive residents in 2011 who intended to look for a job within the next two years, of whom 110,800 had work experience, arguably, the number of ‘actual’ unemployed may be higher.

Vacancies’ pay?

Actually, the number of vacancies by itself, without more detailed data on the pay and working conditions being offered for the vacancies, may have little meaning in helping us to understand the situation better.
For example, during the last recession in 2009, e2i published updated detailed pay data for vacancies. However, I believe such detailed data is no longer available now.

Most cited reason – “Find Pay Unattractive”?

In this connection, according to the MOM’s Job Vacancies 2012 report, of the 13 reasons, the “Find Pay Unattractive” reason was the highest at 49.2 per cent. I find it interesting that this reason was chosen by employers in the employers’ survey, rather than job seekers. Perhaps we ought to do a survey to ask job seekers as well.

66% of vacancies can’t find locals to work – anything to do with foreigners?

As to “With the labour market near full employment, employers reported difficulties in hiring locals for two in three (66%) or 34,760 of the vacancies in 2012.

More than 6 months vacancies – Highest for service & sales workers?

As with vacancies unfilled for at least six months, employers experienced the greatest difficulties in attracting locals to take up lower-skilled jobs. These were mainly, openings for service & sales workers (10,900)” – which had the highest number of unfilled vacancies – I spoke to some service & sales workers and was told that the typical starting basic pay is around $900 plus a month, with gross pay of just over $1,000.

Because they pay peanuts?

With such low pay, is it any wonder that vacancies are unfilled?
In this regard, the 25th percentile gross wage in 2011, for the two job categories with the highest number of vacancies – Shop Sales Assistants and Waiters, was only $1,221 and $920.

If a job is unfilled for more than six months, does it mean that perhaps the employer was not really in great need of the worker, when they gave this information in the survey?

Most vacancies, but they also had highest unemployment rate?

In this connection, what is perhaps even more striking is that according to the MOM’s Singapore Workforce 2012, the occupational category with the highest unemployment rate as of June 2012 was Service & Sales Workers, at 5.6 per cent.

So, the job category with the most vacancies also had the highest unemployment rate!

What this may indicate may be that Singaporeans who lost such jobs may have ,difficulty getting re-employed at a decent comparative pay to make ends meet, in the same type of job.

2nd highest vacancies – Associate Professionals & Technicians?

You may be surprised to read that the second highest job category for vacancies, at 8,960, was for Associate Professionals & Technicians, whose 25th percentile gross wage was $2,480.

In this connection, some of the jobless PMETs that I have talked to, told me that they had difficulty being selected for jobs that only paid around $2,000 because of stiff competition from foreigners, new graduates and age discrimination, despite their decades of experience..

Vacancies at 6-year high?

Finally, can you believe that the Number And Incidence Of Vacancies Unfilled For At Least Six Months, is now at a six-year high, at 20,930 and 39.9 per cent?

article from Leong Sze Hian
Sze Hian is the Past President of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, an alumnus of Harvard University, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow and an author of 4 books. He is frequently quoted in the media. He has also been invited to speak more than 100 times in 25 countries on 5 continents. He has served as Honorary Consul of Jamaica, Chairman of the Institute of Administrative Management, and founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Brunei and Indonesia. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional qualifications. 

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