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The hiring gates re-open (Today 23 Oct)

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The hiring gates re-open

05:55 AM Oct 23, 2009
by Lin Yanqin

THE layoffs of the past nine to 12 months are starting to catch up with employers.

As the Singapore economy turns the corner and with potential growth ahead, more employers here plan to hire staff in this final quarter – more than at any other period this year – according to the latest report on manpower outlook by Hudson.

Some employers are already starting to restore pay cuts or shortened work hours, said the recruitment consultancy.

Compared to Q3, when 24 per cent of employers planned to grow headcount, 36 per cent of the 600 employers surveyed this time replied in the affirmative. The findings, collected in August, indicate significant confidence from employers, given that job losses were lower than expected despite the extent of the recession, said HSBC economist Robert Prior-Wandesforde.

About 14,000 jobs were shed in the first six months on the back of a 6.5-per-cent economic contraction. And the 7,700 lost in the second quarter was far lower than the 12,400 that had been anticipated.

“So the fact that employers are looking to hire more shows they’re expecting positive growth, or are already seeing growth,” said Mr Prior-Wandesforde.

Other recruiters felt the pick-up in hiring outlook is due, in part, to the retrenchments earlier in the year.

“There wasn’t much visibility on how things were going to be, so many businesses were reducing costs and ,” said Mr Mark Ellwood, managing director of Robert Walters Asia (excluding Japan). “Now they’re finding that they need to hire again with economy picking up.”

Whatever the reasons, the extension of Jobs Credit should boost employers’ optimism further, considering they would not have been expecting it when surveyed on their hiring expectations for the report, said Mr Prior-Wandesforde.

But expect some “re-adjustment” when stimulus support from governments worldwide come to an end in the first half of next year, and companies would need to operate in conditions without such initiatives, cautioned industry analysts.

“Going forward, signs such as demand and growth will continue to decide their hiring outlook,” said Mr Prior-Wandesforde.

IT employers most open

For now, the good news for job seekers is that 50 percent of Singapore employers are open to hiring those who have been out of work for an extended period of time – a higher figure compared to bosses in China and Hong Kong.

It suggests that employers here are prepared to be flexible about candidates who choose to spend time away from work, said Ms Gina McLellan, Hudson country manager for Singapore.

“Singaporean employers also seem to be sympathetic to people who have been affected by the economic downturn and lost their jobs through downsizing, cost cutting and restructuring exercises over the past nine to 12 months,” she added.

Information technology employers, who cited relevant experience and skill sets as well as credible references as the most important hiring criteria, were the most open to taking in someone with prolonged unemployment,

These employers were worried about losing potential sources of new hires.

The media/public relations/advertising industry, however, preferred candidates with more recent experience, as the needed skills have been changing rapidly to keep pace with the growing digital media business.

Lack of locals

The Hudson report also found that the more senior the positions, the harder it was to fill vacancies with local talent, especially in the banking, finance and media sectors.

Filling senior positions is a perennial problem, as the talent pool of people with the necessary skills is small, and it is not surprising for employers to look beyond Singapore, said Mr Ellwood. “But at present, finding local talent has not been a problem with our clients (in finance, logistics and IT),” he said.

Citi Singapore human resources director Lee Yan Hong agreed. The company started grooming local graduates from the start of their careers.

For OCBC Bank, current growth areas for the bank are in consumer and corporate banking, and the bank has stepped up recruitment there accordingly.

“We have in place a comprehensive staff development programme,” said the bank’s head of group human resources Cynthia Tan. “When positions become available, we endeavour to fill these positions internally before recruiting from external sources.”

Copyright 2009 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

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