The number of people seeking new roles in Singapore’s finance sector fell dramatically last quarter as foreign candidates pulled out of the job market amid continued efforts by banks to hire more locals.
There were 51% fewer candidates (people applying for Singapore-based finance jobs) in Q2 than in Q1, according to the new Morgan McKinley APAC Employment Monitor.
Many banks pay bonuses in Q1, which invariably makes it the busiest time to look for work, but this year the quarterly fall in Singapore was 10% larger than in 2016. It was also double the decline experienced in Hong Kong.
“I’d still have expected more candidates to be looking for work in Q2, because finding a job isn’t an overnight task,” says Richie Holliday, COO of Morgan McKinley in Asia Pacific. “Q2 is often relatively buoyant for job seekers.”
So why the slump? It’s largely fuelled by foreign finance professionals – both expats already in Singapore and people applying from abroad – becoming less willing to search for work in the Republic.
Banks have been prioritising hiring Singaporeans since the Fair Consideration Framework introduced an obligation to advertise jobs to locals before foreigners. Although the law dates from 2014 and only applies to roles paying under S$144k, the Ministry of Manpower has more recently stepped up its scrutiny on broader hiring practices, especially on companies with a low concentration of Singaporeans at managerial levels.
“Anecdotal evidence from non-Singaporean candidates on the ground suggests they increasingly fear that there are fewer opportunities for them now, due to the desire to localise,” says Holliday.
Singapore-based expats are also worried about being "last in, first out" if the bank they join cuts jobs in the near future, he adds. “And wider, global economic uncertainty has led to their growing desire to stay put.”
There are fewer finance professionals applying from overseas, too. “People who are seeking a move to Singapore are swiftly learning more about the challenges involved. Some are discounting the city state as a result.”
Holliday says their concerns are not unfounded. “The amount of employers making strong references to localisations policies has grown compared with last year.”
The number of finance job vacancies in Singapore decreased quarter-on-quarter in the Morgan McKinley survey – but ‘only’ by 22%, which can be largely explained by the usual post-bonus vacancy boom in Q1.
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