The number of people seeking new roles in Singapore’s finance sector rose dramatically last quarter.
There were 30% more candidates (people applying for Singapore-based finance jobs) in Q3 than in Q2, according to the new Morgan McKinley APAC Employment Monitor.
The new surge in job seekers is “both surprising and reassuring” because it follows a 51% quarter-on-quarter decline in job-seeker numbers in the three months to end-June, says Richie Holliday, COO of Morgan McKinley in Asia Pacific.
Singapore’s numbers also make it a regional outlier. Hong Kong’s finance candidate pool only went up by 4%, while China’s shrunk by 21%.
So why the increase in the Republic? One explanation is that expatriate finance professionals want to move jobs while they still can – before the government potentially cracks down even further on working visas.
While banks have been prioritising hiring Singaporeans since the Fair Consideration Framework was introduced in 2014, the Ministry of Manpower has more recently stepped up its scrutiny on hiring practices, especially on companies with a low concentration of locals at managerial levels.
“Fears around the governmental drive to ensure a Singaporean core in each and every company may have led to the spike: with such worries likely pushing people to look for new positions in outsized numbers,” says Holliday.
Others suggest that changing attitudes among local finance professionals may be largely responsible for the rise, however. The drive to localise the banking workforce has made Singaporean citizens more sought after and therefore more likely to apply for new roles as the job market swings in their favour, says a banking recruiter from another firm.
This is particularly the case for local people working in talent-short functions, including cyber security and private banking, within financial services
In fields such as operations, more people are looking for work for a different reason: redundancies and offshoring (to lower-cost markets like India) have made them unemployed and forced them to become candidates for new jobs.
But are there enough roles for these extra candidates to move into? Morgan McKinley’s figures are fairly optimistic on that front
After falls in the first half of the year, Singapore experienced a 12% quarter-on-quarter increase in available jobs in Q3, the only country in APAC to register any sort of rise.
The increase in vacancies offers hope that the surprise spike in jobs-seekers is not an early indicator of recession, says Holliday. It also supports the theory that Singapore may be reaping the benefits of its focus on attracting new finance industries, such as fintech.
“I would discourage people from celebrating just yet, but it’s a welcome source of optimism after a difficult six months,” says Holliday.
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