Employment outlook for Q4 worsens for businesses in Singapore: Survey

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – Employment expectations among businesses in Singapore have taken a turn for the worse for the last quarter of this year, while the overall business sentiment remains downbeat.

On Tuesday (Sept 8), the Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau’s (SCCB) latest quarterly survey of 200 business owners and senior executives showed the indicator for employment expectations declining to -13.19 percentage points in Q4, from -3.29 percentage points in the previous quarter. That level of sentiment is also the most negative for 2020.

It is a contrast from the previous quarter, when employment sentiment had improved, from -4.98 percentage points in Q2 to -3.29 percentage points in Q3.

The weakened employment sentiment is largely due to “a tepid outlook in global economic activities which has impacted firms in external-oriented sectors”, said SCCB chief executive Audrey Chia.

Firms in Singapore are also turning towards hiring digitally savvy talent and investing in technology in a bid to digitalise and keep manpower costs low during this time, she added.

The survey showed that the sentiment towards employment has worsened in the financial, manufacturing, transport and services sectors in particular.

In the financial sector, for instance, the employment indicator turned negative quarter on quarter, from +33.33 percentage points in Q3 to -33.33 percentage points in Q4.

Similarly, in the manufacturing sector, the indicator fell to -29.41 percentage points in Q4, from zero in the previous quarter. That’s even as the manufacturing and financial sectors are among those anticipating a slightly better outlook compared with the previous quarter, according to SCCB.

On the other hand, businesses in the agricultural and mining sectors expect no changes to their employment levels.

Only the wholesale sector is positive about employment – the indicator is up at +17.65 percentage points in Q4, from zero in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, the overall business sentiment for the fourth quarter remains contractionary. The indicator is at -4.97 percentage points in Q4, up from -5.16 percentage points in the previous quarter. But on a year-on-year basis, the indicator is down from +4.82 percentage points in Q4 2019 to -4.97 percentage points in Q4 2020.

Said Ms Chia: “With heightened global geopolitical tensions, a protracted reopening of international borders and delayed resumption in activities locally for certain sectors such as construction, there are still no clear prospects of recovery in sight within the short term.”

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