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How the spate of global tech layoffs are impacting workers in Singapore

How the spate of global tech layoffs are impacting workers in Singapore

Even with 1,270 resident workers being retrenched from tech companies between Jul to mid-Nov 2022, the silver lining is that most workers have been able to secure a job soon after.

Following the large wave of layoffs globally in the tech industry recently, Minister for Manpower Dr.Tan See Leng has addressed how such a trend has specifically impacted Singapore in a comprehensive Parliamentary response. Particularly, he shared the estimated number of workers impacted, whether this will have a knock-on effect on salary adjustment, and the outplacement support provided.

To start off, Minister Tan clarified that the tech sector generally refers to the information & communications (I&C) sector. As of June 2022, the I&C sector in Singapore employs 136,100 residents. This number has increased steadily over the past five years, growing by an average of 8,100 resident workers per year from June 2017 to June 2022.

In comparison, overall retrenchment numbers over the past five years have been "relatively low", at an average of 790 resident workers per year. Based on the available labour market data, 260 residents were retrenched in the first half of this year, as compared to the increase of 7,000 residents employed in the sector.

Nonetheless, Dr Tan cited recent retrenchment notices received by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which show an uptick in the retrenchment of residents in this sector. In total, per the notices, 1,270 resident workers have been retrenched from tech companies from July to mid-November 2022.

Around eight in 10 of these affected workers were in non-tech roles, i.e. they worked for tech companies but in non-tech roles, such as sales, marketing, and corporate functions. Further, around seven in 10 were aged 35 and below, which Dr Tan shared is consistent with the low median age of employed residents in the I&C sector.

Addressing concerns on demand for tech talent, job vacancies in the I&C sector have in fact continued to rise in the first half of this year, from 11,100 in December 2021 to 12,100 in June 2022. This latest figure is more than triple the 3,800 vacancies in June 2020. In addition, other sectors such as financial services, including local banks, are also hiring for tech roles.

"Taken together, this reflects that there is strong supportive capacity across the larger economy and opportunities for affected workers to fill in-demand roles," Minister Tan affirms. 

Moving forward, Minister Tan shared on the employment support measures for affected workers.

Most workers, he noted, have been able to secure a job soon after retrenchment. In Q2 2022, the rate of re-entry into employment within six months post-retrenchment for residents in the sector was higher than in the overall economy, for both tech and non-tech workers. This suggests that retrenched non-tech workers had also found employment opportunities across the I&C sector and the larger economy.

As part of further efforts, half of the retrenching tech firms between July and mid-November 2022 have engaged outplacement partners or tapped on their industry networks to provide career transition services for their affected workers.

In addition, the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation (RTF), comprising representatives from Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), is also reaching out to all affected local employees, including the youths to offer employment support. This includes information kits on job fairs, career advisory as well as coaching services.

For retrenched non-tech workers, MOM has encouraged them to consider Career Conversion Programmes (CCPs) as well as skills upgrading to improve their chances of returning to the workforce. 

Lastly, NTUC’s e2i also collaborated with Tech Talent Assembly, Accenture, and Amazon Web Services to organise an Infocomm Jobs & Skills Fair in November 2022, providing some 400 jobs on offer.

Data has shown the overall effectiveness of these efforts, with seven in 10 resident workers from the I&C sector who took up the RTF’s assistance in 2021 finding a new job within six months.

Minster Tan stated: "To ensure that affected workers receive timely and effective support, it is important that retrenching firms adhere to the requirement to submit notices of retrenchment to MOM within five working days of notifying affected employees."

In this regard, the majority of retrenchment notifications from the I&C sector since July 2022 were submitted on time. Employers who do not submit on time are issued with caution letters.

Looking ahead, MOM is mindful that hiring demand may moderate in some parts of the I&C sector given macro-economic uncertainties and risks. As such, it will continue to closely monitor retrenchment trends and render assistance to affected workers in both tech and non-tech roles through the RTF.

All images / Shutterstock

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