14 February 2013

 Labour crunch harsher here than in region: poll

56% of firms in S'pore find it tough to hire skilled staff

SINGAPORE businesses are finding it harder than regional peers to find skilled labour amid a global shortage, according to a survey in the Grant Thornton International Business Report.

The survey showed that 56 per cent of businesses in Singapore said it was difficult or very difficult to recruit skilled workers, more than 50 per cent in South-east Asia and 45 per cent in Asia-Pacific.

"With unemployment running so high in many mature economies, it is somewhat ironic that business leaders are concerned by a lack of skills," Foo Kon Tan Grant Thornton advisory services partner Aw Eng Hai said in a statement.

Globally, 39 per cent of businesses faced difficulty in hiring skilled labour, compared to 14 per cent that said it was easy or very easy. The toughest place to find skilled workers was Latvia, with a 70 per cent difficulty response rate, while the easiest was Greece, with just 11 per cent expressing difficulty.

The survey also found that 28 per cent of businesses globally expect their 2013 expansion plans to suffer as a result of skill shortages. In Singapore, that sentiment was expressed by 52 per cent of respondents.

Just how hard is it to find people with the right stuff? Businesses in Singapore said it takes about 79 days on average to hire skilled staff, slightly longer than the 70 days worldwide, and much longer than the 37-day average in China.

"That the key concern amongst business leaders is a lack of technical skills is both cause for optimism and pessimism," Mr Aw said.

"Optimism in the sense that we have seen some evidence that improved dialogue between education institutions and business leaders to embed the necessary skills in students is, in theory, very achievable. However, pessimism in that the fastest-moving sectors such as technology and cleantech are reporting the most serious recruitment difficulties."

Some of the main factors cited for the recruitment difficulties are a lack of the correct skill sets, a lack of work experience and a shortage of general employability skills such as communications and team work.