Q&A: How Can I Make the Best Use of my Unemployment Period?

Question: I have just been laid-off from my previous job and am currently unemployed. I do not expect to be able to find a job right away. What can I do to ensure that I make the best use of my unemployment period and stand myself in good stead with my future employers? (Read More Here!)

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Q&A: Explaining Your Long Unemployment Period

Question: I have been unemployed for over nine months. How do I explain my long unemployment period at an upcoming job interview?

Answer: The interviewer may or may not have an unfavourable impression of your gaping unemployment period. But it can be typical for some employers to link this to something negative – perhaps a bad work ethnic or undesirable personality. The last thing you want to do is to shrug your shoulders nonchalantly and give an awkward smile. So how do you weave your way through this dreaded question? (Read More Here!)

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The Great Job Upheaval

By: Gerald Goh

The fallout from the global recession of 2009 is still being felt in 2013. In fact, Singapore’s economy contracted 0.6 per cent on a year-on-year basis in the first quarter of this year, down from 1.5 per cent in the previous quarter in 2012.

With sluggish economic growth forecasted for many other countries around the world, jobseekers are thus eagerly awaiting a turnaround in global economic sentiment – anticipating a return to the days of plenty as bad debts are restructured, toxic assets purged and the unemployment rate falls.

Will this come to pass?

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Are You Sure You’re Hiring?

By Gerald Goh

It should be an employee’s market in Singapore right now – when we last checked, the official unemployment rate was low – 2 per cent, or thereabouts on average in 2012 – and job listings are still plentiful.

Not to mention that you’re either raring to kick-start your career, or have recently gotten your annual bonus and have your eye on your next career move.

But are companies in Singapore really hiring, and in quantities that the numbers suggest that they should be?

Singapore workers keen to upgrade their skills despite low unemployment rate

By Juliet Soh

Against the backdrop of low unemployment rate of 2%, more than a thousand Singapore workers signed up for career seminars, showing a high level of interest in upgrading their career skills. The inaugural JobsCentral Career Summit 2012 hosted within the JobsCentral Career and Learning Fair, saw keen participation across its 23 seminars over topics on career growth, entrepreneurship, business skills and leadership.

Lim Der Shing, CEO of the JobsCentral Group says, “We are pleased to see strong support for the JobsCentral Career Summit from both students and experienced professionals. It goes to show that lifelong learning and career enhancing skills are valued by and are important to our workforce.”

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Overall unemployment here hits three-year high

Singapore's overall unemployment rate has hit a three-year high of 3.3 per cent. In the first quarter of 2009, 10,900 workers were retrenched, while 1,860 had their contracts prematurely terminated, contributing to a total loss of 12,760 jobs.

The labour market is experiencing its first quarterly contraction in nearly 6 years, as the number of workers who lost their jobs exceeded the number of workers hired. According to the Ministry of Manpower, a total of 95,700 residents were unemployed in March.

Most job losses come from the manufacturing sector, which has been affected by falling external demand. Services industries with external exposure like hotels and restaurants were also hit, while financial services saw a net loss of 1,900 jobs.

Domestic services and construction experienced gains, with the latter growing by 8,300 jobs. As for domestic services, gains came mainly from community, social and personal services, boosted by public sector hiring.

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Coping with retrenchment and rising unemployment

Singapore’s unemployment rate rose from 2.5% in December 2008 to 3.2% in March 2009. In addition, 10,800 workers were retrenched in Q1 2009 as compared to 7,500 in the previous quarter. These grim figures have just been revealed by MOM in a bleak report on the employment situation.

Robert Half Singapore’s Managing Director, Mr. Tim Hird, has advice on how to cope for both employers and job seekers.

“As companies focus on survival in this downturn, it is important that they do not lose sight of their people,” he says. “In fact, these harsh times call for a greater need to keep talent management and retention as a key business priority. Companies need to take the long-term view given that business success and long-term growth is largely dependent on the ability of its employees.”

Retaining talent does not mean judicious retrenchment. Instead, it also involves maintaining workplace morale. For instance, retrenchment of non-performers may still incite fear amongst a company’s top talent, thereby causing them to make plans about moving on.

Developments from MOM

Newly released figures by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) point to a slowdown in recruitment for Q3 of 2008. Three sectors – manufacturing, financial services, and transport and services – were badly hit.

Hiring in the manufacturing sector dropped by 1.3% in Q4, despite a 2.3% increase in hiring just prior to the final quarter. Hiring of PMETs also lapsed to just 1.2%.

In that same period, hiring in the financial sector fell from 2.8% to 1.9%. However, analysts note that smaller financial firms which do not have their whole foot in the US market are still poised to ride on growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

Finally, in the transport and storage sectors, recruitment dropped from 2.5% in Q3 to 1.7% in Q4.

In other news, MOM has set up a taskforce to detect malpractices by employers, such as failure to pay workers' salaries on time. Minister for Manpower Gan Kim Yong said that the taskforce will consolidate and analyse information surfaced from MOM's inspections, as well as intelligence it receives.

More good news for foreign workers also comes in the form of Avery Lodge, a newly opened worker dormitory with a capacity of 8,000 beds.

Youth and Unemployment

On Monday, the Ministry of Manpower released sobering statistics, which showed that nearly 10,000 workers were retrenched in the last quarter of 2008 alone. Out of those jobless, 21% were university graduates, up from 14% the year before.

It seems that the more highly educated are having it especially bad during this recession. This makes it all the more shocking that a recent survey found Generation Y workers to still be expecting higher starting salaries than the previous year. According to the survey, university and polytechnic graduates wanted 3% and 10% more pay respectively.

In addition, the survey, carried out by Temasek Polytechnic and human resource consultancy company GMP Group in November and December last year, also reported that “while the younger workers felt they were putting long hours at work, their older colleagues and bosses felt they were not putting in enough”.

Are Generation Y workers being delusional about their job prospects, especially given their poorer work ethics? It seems hard to fathom how they are able to compete with harder-working and yet less demanding older workers in the jobs-scarce labour market. Let us hope that the realities of this recession can serve as a wake-up call so that the quality of our labour force is not jeopardized in the long run.

More graduates and PMETs out of jobs

16,880 workers were laid off last year, with 37% formed by professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

According to figures released by the Ministry of Manpower, this is an increase from the 31% in 2007. Among displaced workers, PMETs also experienced the largest increase in job losses in the last quarter of 2008, from 950 in the third quarter to 3,790 in the fourth quarter.

More graduates are out of a job too, forming 21% of the unemployed in December 2008, as compared to 14% in 2007. Here are some other just-released figures that should interest you:

- As of December last year, there were about 26,000 job openings

- For every 51 job openings in December, there were 100 jobseekers

- Real earnings fell by 1.1% last year, while labour productivity dropped by 7.8%

- In December, foreigners formed 36% of the 2.95 million people working in Singapore

For more news and discussions related to the recession, visit the JobsCentral Forum: