Monday, July 19, 2010

Foreign workers needed for top posts in finance, IT

Return of expat professionals becoming apparent: director of HR firm

(SINGAPORE) A sizeable proportion of foreign workers entering Singapore this year could be highly skilled, some economists say. Recruiters' observations of the rising number of expatriate professionals now being hired point the same way.

The strong economic rebound, coupled with a tightening labour market, could mean Singapore will need more than 100,000 extra foreign workers this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last week. While the bulk of these foreigners are likely to take on lower- wage jobs in manufacturing with ramped-up production as well as the retail, F&B (food and beverage) and construction sectors, a good number will also be needed for top posts in sectors such as finance and IT.

Economists point to available data on jobs this year which shows surprisingly weak job creation in the hospitality-related sectors and the contrasting strength in sectors like financial services.

Citi economist Kit Wei Zheng noted that the official first-quarter labour market report showed 100 net job losses in hospitality, reflecting either tighter enforcement of existing foreign worker quotas or front-loaded hiring for the integrated resorts in 2009's last quarter. In contrast, the financial sector added 5,500 jobs in Q1.

'Financial sector job creation could be sustained partly by relocation of some activities away to Singapore, as financial regulatory reform dampens profitability of such activities in the developed market,' said Mr Kit.

Rising wages, another sign of labour market tightening, were also seen in the financial services sector, said OCBC economist Selena Ling. In Q1, overall real earnings rose 2.8 per cent. For the services sector the rise was 2.4 per cent but average real earnings in the financial sub-sector rose 4 per cent.

This demand for manpower is looking abroad for highly-skilled labour now.

'The return of post-recession expatriate professionals has only become apparent in the last quarter,' said Karin Clarke, regional director (Singapore & Malaysia) of global recruitment and HR services company Randstad.

It is a 'candidate-short market' now, said specialist recruitment firm Ambition Singapore's managing director Paul Endacott. 'Investment banks, private banks, asset management, wealth management institutions are finding it much more difficult to hire locally for vice-president levels and above,' he said.

The rise in foreign top talent joining banks in higher level roles has also been witnessed at specialist professional recruiter Robert Walters. Elaine Truong, senior consultant of the firm's financial services division, said: 'Talent in top demand include those with specialised skills set to fill the shortage of candidates available locally.'

Outside of finance, there is also high demand for 'foreign white-collar professionals' to fill 'specialist IT posts, engineering positions within the oil & gas sector and specialist healthcare professionals', Randstad's Ms Clarke said.

The general trend is one of 'expats coming to Singapore willing to work, although there are signs that expat pay package expectations are relaxing, though this is not yet the norm', said Mark Sparrow, managing director of Kelly Services Singapore.

And though hiring usually slows in Q4 due to impending bonuses, Robert Walters' finance and risk manager Neil Dyball expects this year to be an exception for mid to senior- level appointments, as companies look to source talent from the UK, US, Hong Kong and Australia.

Source: Business Times, 19 Jul 2010

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