In the past two years, lots of Singaporeans have been retrenched, 73% of whom were PMETs. The long-term unemployment rate amongst residents is creeping up, and this is something the government is rightfully worried about.
However, the problem isn’t actually that there aren’t enough jobs. In fact, there are some jobs that are so short of candidates, either due to a lack of skills amongst the local population (eg. engineering) or low salaries that deter local applicants (eg. service industry), that employers fill their vacancies, whether by choice or otherwise, with foreign hires.
In fact, in December 2016, there were 77 job openings for every 100 job seekers. That means that out of these 100 jobseekers, 77 of them could have found vacancies, but did not or could not take them up for whatever reason.
So why would a jobseeker not take up an available job when it’s either that or an income of zero? Here are three reasons.
They lack the skills for the jobs
Many of the high-level jobs being created these days require skills that older jobseekers may not have. In fact, the disruptive effects of technology are creating a skills gap that is leaving jobseekers high and dry.
For instance, there is a huge demand for software engineers, data scientists, digital marketers and digital product managers in Singapore right now. But universities are not churning out graduates who have these skills. Worse still, the PMETs who are getting retrenched right now are unlikely to have the skills to take on these jobs.
The SkillsFuture initiative attempts to plug these skills gaps somewhat, but $500 doesn’t go that far and the onus is really on the employee to pursue a career a path and obtain the skills, whether through the workplace or by pursuing further education, that will enable him to take advantage of the new jobs that are being created.
The jobs pay too little to support them
Some of the job vacancies for which employers struggle to find candidates include roles that Singaporeans traditionally find unattractive, such as in security or the service roles.
It’s tempting to shout that Singaporeans are too picky, and need to lower their expectations.
But the truth is that the wages paid to employees of some of these jobs are so low that it would make no sense for a retrenched PMET to take them up. The time spent working in these jobs would not only be insufficient to support their households, but would also be better deployed to reskilling and trying to find a more suitable job, even at the expense of a longer period without an income.
Lets take security guards as an example. An entry level security officer gets paid about $1,110 a month—and that’s often for a 12-hour shift 6 days a week, a gruelling work week of 72 hours.
At such wages, it would be more profitable for a retrenched degree or diploma holder to simply take on 3 or 4 tuition students to make the same amount, freeing up his time to reskill or look for jobs.
They are not interested in the jobs
If you think about a job as simply something that stops you and your family from starving to death, then any work that pays a decent salary will do.
But younger employees, especially, are starting to care more about whether their work is aligned with their lifestyle, long-term goals and interests.
For those who don’t absolutely, desperately need the money, this translates to a willingness to forgo jobs they don’t like to find something more ideal, even if it means being jobless for a longer period.
What’s more, there are more short-term money-making options than ever to tide people through until they find their ideal job, such as giving tuition or driving for Grab or Uber. To many people, such options are preferable to chaining themselves to a random full-time job.
Do you think retrenched folks should be picky? Share your views in the comments!
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