|Singaporeans still picky about jobs|
|Saturday, 21 March 2009 08:00|
Here in Singapore, some 20,000 people thronged a four-day career fair recently, vying for the 800 jobs offered by the upcoming integrated resorts. It was just one of several mega job fairs in the last three months, all of which drew big crowds.
The number of people seeking jobs has shot up with a vengeance of late. Apparently employment - or rather, unemployment - is no laggard in this downturn.
Primed as everyone is for bad news these days, with the economy in its steepest recession ever, the surge in Singapore's latest out-of-job data is still fairly dramatic: The number of retrenched workers - which had averaged below 2,000 in each quarter of 2007 before rising slightly to just over 2,000 in each of the first three quarters of 2008 - soared to 7,500 in Q4.
The local carnage from the global downturn is also starkly evident in another indicator - contract workers terminated prematurely because they have become redundant.
From an average of less than 200 in the preceding six quarters, the number shot up to 830 in Q3 last year, and then 1,910 in Q4. So in all, some 9,410 people were made redundant in Q4 last year, more than the sum total in 2007.
Various estimates by economists put the total job loss this year and next at between 100,000 and 240,000 - despite the best efforts by the government to help employers retain jobs.
The public sector has, of course, weighed in to offer thousands of openings in various sectors: education, health care, security, newbie high-tech industries. There appear to be, at a quick glance, jobs galore at all levels: blue collar and white, low skills to specialist skills.
If only job seekers and hirers could be magically and seamlessly matched, with happy, productive outcomes for both worker and employer.
The reality, of course - apart from a glaring mismatch of demand and skills in the job market - is that the 'art and craft' of job matching (from manpower training at tertiary-level enrolment planning to job creation) is one fraught with perils and pitfalls, especially in the face of immediate short-term needs.
You have 1,200 jobs up for grabs in the clean-tech industry, but not enough Singaporeans qualified to fill them.
You get people becoming teachers with no real passion or zeal for teaching. Students who want to become a doctor get 'channelled' into dentistry or biochemistry.
Yet another common reason for the mismatch here - even when apparently desperate for employment, Singaporeans would still be fussy and picky, shunning jobs that entail shift work, or too long a commute, or too much time on their feet, to say nothing, of course, of any work that requires donning a hard hat on a work site.
And yet some still sit up and grouse on noticing that foreigners took up the lion's share of new jobs created last year - available jobs that Singaporeans did not want.