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Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Singapore job prospects head the bleak charts

Manpower survey indicates it could be worst job market among 33 surveyed

By CHUANG PECK MING

(SINGAPORE) It's already bad enough. But Singapore's job market is going to get even worse in the next three months as half of 636 employers polled indicated they are going to cut staff, according to the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.

Singapore's net employment outlook - the percentage of employers intending to increase hiring minus the percentage likely to trim workers - for the second quarter of 2009 is a negative 43 per cent, says the United States-based employment services firm.

That's not just the second straight-quarter decline - and a deterioration from the first quarter's net employment outlook of minus 38 per cent - it's also the worst jobs market outlook among the 33 countries in the Manpower poll.

And by a wide margin. Ireland, whose prospects for job-seekers are less bleak only than Singapore's over the next three months, has a net employment outlook of a mere minus 15 per cent.

Manpower notes that year-on-year, Singapore's net employment outlook for the second quarter plunged 99 percentage points, indicating 'a notable decline of optimism in the labour market'.

Says Philippe Capsie, Manpower Singapore's country manager: 'As the current crisis of confidence continues with no quick fix in the foreseeable future, employers are understandably cautious and slowing down their hiring.'

While half of the employers polled indicated they intended to trim payrolls, 29 per cent saw no change in their workforces. Only 7 per cent expected to increase headcount.

The pessimism about hiring cut across all seven sectors polled, but employers in the transportation and utilities and the public administration and education sectors are the least optimistic - with net employment outlooks of minus 55 per cent and minus 54 per cent respectively.

Hiring prospects are also especially weak for the wholesale trade and retail trade (-53 per cent) and services sectors (-51 per cent).

The only bright spot is a quarter-on-quarter improvement in the outlook for the finance, insurance and real estate sector. But the improvement is only five percentage points.

The transportation and utilities sector saw the steepest quarter-on-quarter decline in outlook - a drop of 36 percentage points. The outlook for the public administration and education sector fell 33 percentage points.

Compared to a year ago, all seven sectors have sharply weaker outlooks, including a 137 percentage points plunge for the public and education sector. On average, the outlook for the seven sectors are down 105 percentage points.

'The public administration and education sector looks to be suffering as people are probably putting on hold plans to further advance their studies to focus on their careers,' says Mr Capsie.

According to the Manpower poll, employers in Australia, Japan and New Zealand are also reporting their first negative outlooks since the surveys started in these countries.

Only employers in India and China expect to add workers in the quarter ahead - and only employers in India report improved hiring plans compared to three months ago.

For the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, labour market conditions are likely to 'deteriorate at a surprisingly rapid rate', according to Manpower.

Worldwide, Manpower's poll of 72,000 employers shows employers everywhere plan to cut back on hiring in the second quarter, with US employers reporting the gloomiest outlook since the 1982 recession.

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