More job openings for PMETs but overall vacancies are down

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Rise of one percentage point shows overall shift towards higher-value jobs

In line with the technological boom, the shortage of software, Web and multimedia developers is getting more acute.

This group of workers tops the list of occupations with the most unmet demand last year among professionals, managers, executives and technicians, or PMETs.

The latest Ministry of Manpower (MOM) job vacancies report, released yesterday, also showed more openings for PMETs, reflecting the overall shift towards higher value-added jobs. It rose a notch to 49 per cent of all vacancies last year, compared with 48 per cent the year before.

Labour MP Patrick Tay said the shortage of software, Web and multimedia developers could be due to people trained in these areas preferring other jobs like IT project management.

In the past, such work seemed to offer better career prospects, he said, adding: "We need to change their mindsets and help them update their programming skills."

Job vacancies refer to openings for which employers are actively hiring workers from outside their businesses.

In all, there were 53,100 jobs up for grabs as at end-September last year, down from 53,800 the year before and 60,000 in 2015. The slide reflects that employers were able to find workers more quickly last year.

The proportion of vacancies unfilled for at least six months fell to 33 per cent, down from 36 per cent in 2016.

Part of the reason could be that economic growth turned rosier in the second half of last year, said OCBC economist Selena Ling. Also, companies may have also invested more in technology to become more productive, she added.

For non-PMETs, there were fewer job openings, and Maybank Kim Eng economist Chua Hak Bin attributed it to slower business in more labour-intensive sectors such as construction and retail, which is facing disruption from e-commerce.

"But this is in line with the shift to higher productivity, higher value-add sectors," he added.

Other PMET occupations with most unmet demand were teaching and training professionals; commercial and marketing sales executives; and management executives.

Employers cited the lack of relevant work experience as the top challenge in hiring local PMETs for such hard-to-fill vacancies.

For non-PMETs, the roles with the most vacancies were security guards; receptionists, customer service and information clerks; and shop sales assistants. Unattractive pay, working on weekends and public holidays, and shift work were among the main reasons people stayed away from non-PMET jobs that could not be filled for six months or more, said MOM.

In the push to encourage employers to hire workers based on skills, this year's report also included a new metric on whether academic qualifications were the main consideration in hiring.

It was not in four out of 10 PMET vacancies, said MOM.

But for non-PMET vacancies, it was the main consideration for nine out of 10 vacancies.

MOM urged firms to do more to redesign non-PMET jobs.

To overcome skills mismatches, MOM urged employers to widen their pool of potential hires and tap government support for their hiring needs.