73 per cent of firms polled say they intend to hire in next 2 months

Poll findings show jobs situation continues to recover, but manpower minister says challenges remain

About 73 per cent of companies polled by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) last month said they intend to hire in the next two months, as business sentiments are becoming relatively positive with the economy on the mend.

This is up from 65 per cent in December last year. Last June, this was about 52 per cent of companies polled, said MOM, citing ongoing company polls.

The proportion of companies that intend to cut staff size also fell to 2.2 per cent, from 2.8 per cent in December.

Those that said they would reduce salaries rose to 3.4 per cent, from 2.8 per cent three months before.

The findings were published yesterday in MOM's report of preliminary estimates for the labour market in the first quarter of this year, which showed the jobs situation has continued to recover.

The key indicators - total employment and unemployment rate - are expected to improve.

Retrenchments fell for the second consecutive quarter to pre-pandemic levels, down from the peak in the third quarter of last year.

Similarly, the incidence of retrenchments also fell, from 2.8 workers retrenched per 1,000 employees in the fourth quarter of last year to 1.1 workers retrenched per 1,000 employees in the first quarter of this year.

But MOM cautioned that there may still be pockets of displacement, due to ongoing restructuring and reorganisation of businesses.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who spoke to the media after visiting NTUC LearningHub in Bras Basah yesterday, said there would still be challenges from travel restrictions that affect the inflow of work pass holders, as well as from the changing profiles of jobs as a result of business transformations.

But she noted that with the travel restrictions, more employers are considering hiring locals for positions that require new skills as a result of business restructuring.

She urged job seekers to pick up new skills, so that they will be more attractive to prospective employers. Displaced workers can also tap the SGUnited Skills Programme, traineeships or mid-career pathways programmes.

"There is no penalty towards the individual if, along the way, they find employment and decide to exit.

"So we'd like to encourage them to continue exploring these options offered through such schemes and know that the support is readily available to them to make full use of the time they have," said Mrs Teo.

OCBC Bank chief economist Selena Ling said while businesses are gradually hiring again, they are more likely replacing displaced workers lost over the past 12 months, rather than aggressively expanding their workforce.

While sectors such as financial services are leading the recovery, small to medium-sized enterprises may still be cautious about hiring when existing support measures expire, she said.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.