A report in People Management Asia, an online magazine published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) that focuses on Human Resources issues in East and South East Asia, highlights some of the changes that are taking place in the foreign labour market in Singapore (You can read the article here). Traditionally, the greatest number of expats working in Singapore were employed by banks and other financial services – these jobs were those directly involved in financial services as well as those supporting these services such as IT specialists and others in technology development.
What we see now is that, driven by high costs and other restrictions, the banks and other financial institutions are moving many jobs to lower labour cost countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and China. They are also developing their strategic and operational interests in these countries.
In spite of this, however, the number of foreigners working in Singapore continues to rise. The Ministry of Manpower’s (MoM) website shows that the Total Foreign Workforce (excluding foreign domestic workers and construction workers) in December 2014 was 764,500. This rose to 780,300 in December 2015, and to 787,800 in December 2016 – the number at the end of June 2017 might suggest a slowdown as the numbers dropped slightly to 787,000. You can read about the full breakdown of the types of employment passes and work passes that these foreigners are working on in Singapore on MoM’s website here.
So if certain jobs in the financial services sector are decreasing, what types of jobs are these foreigners doing? Well, not all parts of the financial services sector are affected as there is a continuing increase in financial technology jobs and in its associated Research and Development (R & D). The CIPD report suggests that the trend is increasingly changing to technical areas in other industries and to R & D in “sectors ranging from financial technology to renewable energy and life sciences”.
Government policy is also having an effect on the type and level of jobs that foreigners in Singapore are doing. Previously, many of the jobs that foreigners held were at junior to mid-level. Now, with the governments push to hire more local PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians), especially older PMETs, many of these jobs are increasingly held by locals. MoM and other government ministries provide a range of generous incentives for companies to hire, train or retrain local PMETs.
Jobs at a senior level are the only ones to buck this trend and there is still a high demand for these.
Another changing trend for foreigners is in the type of remuneration packages that they are being offered. The traditional expat package that included high housing allowances and paid school fees for their children is not automatic for foreigners coming to work in Singapore anymore. More and more work contracts are now only being offered on local terms, but because of Singapore’s low personal tax rates, these contracts are still attractive.