Singapore ‘needs 1m extra workers to keep up’

Report predicts talent shortages across Asia, as IT specialists receive a wage hike

More than 1m new skilled workers will be needed in Singapore, according to a new study – which says that it left unfilled, the posts could cost the country up to US$106bn each year by 2030 in lost revenue.

The study, by Korn Ferry Futurestep, estimated the talent shortfall as well as the gap between future supply and demand for 20 major economies at three separate dates: 2020, 2025 and 2030.

Dilal Ranasinghe, head of search and client development in Asean at Korn Ferry Futurestep, said: “Our study reveals that there already isn’t enough skilled talent to go round and by 2030, organisations and economies could find themselves in the grip of a talent crisis.”

The authors focused on three sectors: financial and business services; technology, media and telecommunications (TMT); and manufacturing.

By 2030, the study predicted a talent deficit of 85.2m workers across the analysed economies, which could result in a loss of US$8.45tn in annual revenue.

In Singapore, the skill shortage is apparent in all three sectors, and the particularly acute issues in financial and business services could result in a loss of US$29.2bn annually by 2030.

The survey projected that Hong Kong and Singapore would be among the hardest hit by the labour shortages in manufacturing, with both losing more than half of the sector’s highly skilled workers.

By 2030, the survey estimates that Hong Kong’s deficit of highly skilled manufacturing workers will be around 80 per cent, with Singapore’s deficit expected to be above 61 per cent.

Ranasinghe said Singapore was among the top five countries at greatest risk of a talent crunch: “Upskilling the existing workforce in Singapore is therefore critical. Human resource development holds the key both to economic development and reducing inequality by enabling local populations to achieve their potential.”

Meanwhile, specialist recruiter Robert Half reported that some skilled workers in Singapore are already seeing a wage hike, including security specialists and business analysts.

The report revealed that bosses were willing to raise starting salaries for IT professionals to secure talent. More than half (63 per cent) of CIOs said they were willing to pay a higher starting salary to IT jobseekers with project experience.

David Jones, senior managing director of Asia Pacific for Robert Half, said that skilled talent was essential so businesses were not ‘left behind’ as the economy became increasingly digital.

“Technology is impacting all industries, and companies need to adjust or risk being left behind. As digitisation spreads, new skillsets are required to navigate new systems as well as find new ways of driving business development. Skilled talent and technology work hand in hand; companies need both to grow in today’s market,” he said.

The study also revealed that all of the CFOs surveyed found it challenging to acquire skilled finance and accounting professionals.

Last year, Singapore’s government-run Cyber Security Agency (CSA) announced a plan to open its first academy ahead of a surge in demand for IT and cybersecurity skills. At the time, it was reported that 80 per cent of firms did not have robust cyber response plans.

A CSA spokesperson told People Management that the academy would not only train professionals but also focus on “targeted niche areas that go beyond what is normally available on the market”.

The talent shortages are compounded by the fact that Singapore has the fifth highest number of employed full-time workers in the world.

Global analytics and advisory firm Gallup revealed in its 2018 Global Great Jobs Briefing report that 48 per cent of the Singaporean adult population had “good jobs” or full-time employment.

Singapore led the Asian rankings, and was beaten only by the United Arab Emirates (69 per cent), Bahrain (59 per cent), Russia (49 per cent) and Estonia (49 per cent) on a global basis.

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