More job vacancies last year were new roles; 35% for work that can be done remotely: MOM

A RISING share of job vacancies last year were for newly-created roles, and - amid the Covid-19 pandemic - 35 per cent were for work that can be done remotely, said the Manpower Ministry's (MOM) annual Job Vacancies report on Friday.

The report is based on a survey conducted from Sept 24 to Nov 23 last year, with responses from 14,480 businesses which together employ a total of 2.04 million workers.

"As the 2020 survey was conducted at a time when Singapore was gradually recovering from the impact of the coronavirus, the findings will be influenced by this episode," noted the report.

For instance, some of the top "emerging jobs" - those with an increase in demand from 2019 - were related to the pandemic, such as medical and pathology laboratory technicians or cyber security professionals, noted Ang Boon Heng, director of MOM's manpower research and statistics department.

With the pandemic creating new temporary jobs, the share of fixed-term contract positions - as opposed to permanent headcount - also rose to 24 per cent, from 18 per cent the year before.

This was led by the public administration and education sector, as well as health and social services, which saw new manpower needs for increased Covid-19 testing and healthcare roles, said the report.

And with pandemic measures having required the closure of workplaces, the latest survey asked about remote working for the first time. Of the job vacancies in 2020, 35 per cent involved work that can be done remotely.

These were mainly professional, manager, executive and technician (PMET) roles, with 57 per cent of PMET positions seen as suitable for remote working. In contrast, only 6 per cent of non-PMET roles were deemed suitable for remote working.

While the MOM releases quarterly job vacancy statistics, this annual release provides more details on the nature of vacancies.

Of the job openings in 2020, 44.8 per cent were newly-created positions rather than replacements, up from 42 per cent in 2019. Most of this was due to expansion into new functions, and job restructuring and redesign, said MOM.

"This suggests that the pace of business transformation and restructuring was sustained even though 2020 was a year of great turmoil for businesses," Manpower Minister Josephine Teo told the media.

The two sectors in which new roles made up the highest share of job vacancies were information and communications, and financial and insurance services.

Job vacancies were only marginally easier to fill in 2020, with 27.5 per cent remaining unfilled for six months or more, compared to 28 per cent in 2019.

Mrs Teo noted that for PMET roles that were hard to fill, employers commonly attributed this to a lack of required skills and work experience, while for non-PMET roles, jobseekers may have been deterred by the work environment, physical demands, or shift work.

"For jobseekers, a willingness to re-skill will be increasingly necessary. For employers, a willingness to redesign non-PMET roles and reskill existing or new staff will also be increasingly necessary," she said.

In a Facebook post, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Desmond Choo highlighted NTUC Company Training Committees as a good platform for unions and employers to ensure workers are provided with relevant training.

NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute and NTUC LearningHub can also help individuals navigate job and training opportunities, said Mr Choo, who is also the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.

"But as always, I hope workers will continue to keep an open mind when it comes to learning new skills and taking on new roles, or even switching to other industries that are hiring," he added.

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