With Singapore slowly opening up its economy, hiring activity is expected to gradually recover, with some sectors recovering faster than others. But will it go back to pre-COVID-19 levels? 

According to ManpowerGroup's latest Employment Outlook Survey, 12% of employers estimate this bounce back will happen in the next three months (by Q1 2021). About a tenth (9%) predicted this will take four to nine months, while 4% expected it to recover within the next 10 to 12 months. 

Almost a fifth (17%) of employers estimated that it would take more than a year to recover, while 19% thought that hiring activity will never recover. Meanwhile, 39% of employers are uncertain.

Overall, there is some good news for job seekers in Singapore. Of the 476 employers surveyed, 9% said they expect to increase their staff strength. Only 4% anticipated a decrease, while the remaining 66% forecasted no change. 

After accounting for seasonal variation, the reported Net Employment Outlook is +15%, jumping by 17 percentage points (pp) from the last quarter, coming in as the strongest Outlook recorded in six years.

Linda Teo, Country Manager of ManpowerGroup Singapore, said: "The strong recovery in employment outlook reflects employers’ growing confidence now that the pandemic is under control in Singapore. However, the return to pre-pandemic hiring levels will be gradual as employers continue to keep their plans fluid in anticipation of new developments to the COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, employers are recalibrating their workforce strategy in view of tightening restrictions on work pass applications as well as the increased digitalisation of work."

Upbeat hiring outlook in the mining & construction sector, while the finance, insurance & real estate sector sees a slower recovery

Across all seven industry sectors in Singapore, positive hiring intentions were reported for the forthcoming quarter. 

The strongest of which came from the mining & construction sector where the outlook is +26%. Employers in services also reported upbeat hiring outlook of +18%. Meanwhile, employers in the transportation & utilities sector has reported their strongest hiring outlook in three years (+17%).

Elsewhere, steady hiring activity is forecasted for the public administration & education sector with an outlook of +14%, and in the manufacturing sector where the outlook is +12%. Some workforce gains were also anticipated by the wholesale & retail trade sector employers who report an outlook of +10%, and in the finance, insurance & real estate sector where the outlook is +8%.

“One of the biggest impacts of COVID-19 is the change in consumer behaviour. More people have shifted to shopping online, from ordering daily necessities to takeaway food. In conjunction, more companies have expanded into e-commerce as well. To meet these increased demands, logistics companies are ramping their hiring to fill business, commercial, technology and operational roles,” Teo added.

In APAC, strongest hiring prospects come from Taiwan and Singapore, while the weakest labour market is Hong Kong

In Asia Pacific, employers in six of seven markets are expecting to grow payrolls during the next three months with outlooks improving in four out of seven APAC countries and territories.

The strongest hiring prospects are reported in Taiwan (+23%) – also the strongest globally – and Singapore (+15%), while the weakest and only negative regional labour market is Hong Kong (-2%).

Overall, employers in APAC are most positive about labour market recovery, with 27% believing recovery to pre-pandemic levels is possible within the next three months.

manpowergroup meos infographic 1q21

Infographic and image / ManpowerGroup