By Adrian Choo, The Career Strategist
I don’t mean to scare you, but there might be a Job-pocalypse within the next 24 months for Executives around the globe.
Due to the unintentional effects of Covid19, a developing threat to the local job-market that no-one has noticed lays silently in wait.
By themselves, these factors present little to moderate risk to the economy, but combined, this confluence could prove a lethal set of body-blows to an already ailing PMET (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technical Engineers) demographic in Singapore which currently stands at 58% of the total workforce.
1. The Distance Economy
One thing that C19 lockdowns have demonstrated to Employers is that technology has allowed us to truly go global.
Business travel has declined to zero and yet, companies have thrived. Technology has enabled businesses to be effective managed remotely. Face-to-face interactions we once thought indispensable is no longer needed. Workers have come to appreciate zoom meetings as a better alternative to uncomfortable flights to faraway offices.
Some studies even claim that productivity arising from remote work has even improved by up to 15%.
As a result, workers are more than happy to work from home, with up to 59% indicating a reluctance to return to the office. Customers are also getting comfortable with service providers that support them virtually rather than in-person.
This has created the a worldwide acceptance of the ‘Distance Economy’ where workers do not need to be physically present to have work done.
2. Jobs Leakage
Because of the effectiveness of ‘Work From Home’, it has dawned on business leaders that staff need not be in the office; in fact they need not have to be in the country. After all, work is executed remotely, regardless of whether the executive is in Singapore or KL.
As a result, many companies are electing to relocate roles outside of Singapore.
An MNC client of ours recently established a Technical Support Centre in Singapore and gave the jobs to a team based in KL on the basis that ‘the local team wasn’t based in the office anyway’ and this resulted in 46% cost-savings.
Consequently, Singapore is leaking jobs to cheaper locations and given our high cost-base, it makes good commercial sense for companies to adopt this strategy.
3. The Reverse Brain-Drain
C19 has brought about a peculiar ‘Reverse Brain Drain’ phenomena across the region.
Traditionally, the best Regional talents were largely based in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo, the de-facto regional hubs of Asia.
However, because of the Covid19 lock-downs and mass retrenchments across Asia, many talented business professionals and managers have returned to their country of origin, bringing with them their years of expertise home where they enjoy both family and a significantly lower cost-base.
A Malaysian Regional Compensation & Benefits Director who was based in Hong Kong for over 12 years recently repatriated to KL after being retrenched.
Undaunted, she hunted for jobs in the region and was recently hired by an American company headquartered in Singapore.
Her asking price was a startling 50% lower her previous HK package, but when converted to Malaysian Ringgit, she felt that “was a princely sum, given the lower running costs at home”. She edged out 3 other Singaporeans for that job.
Covid19 has reversed the Talent Flight observed in the booming years and has resulted in a growing abundance of appropriately qualified and cheaper manpower scattered across the globe.
The Impending Job-pocalypse?
So, given the powerful confluence of the Distance Economy, Jobs Leakage and Reverse Brain Drain, we are observing an increase in external competition for PMET jobs.
Once companies realise the presence of cheaper, more qualified talents who can work remotely, it will only be a matter of time before the floodgates are opened and a mass exodus of jobs will flow out of Singapore. Already, the trend has begun to catch on.
“The frightening truth is that because this supply of talent is outside the control of the Singapore Government, there is little the leadership can do to stem the flow. No amount of Employment-Pass restrictions or Work-permit freezes can contain the job-leakage to workers based beyond our borders.”
What can the PMET do about this?
From our experience as Career Strategists, we would recommend three things we can do to counter this inevitable force ahead of us.
1. Keep Creating Value
There is no denying that these regional talents are skilled at what they do and are hungry for Singapore-originated jobs. The most obvious way to out-play them is to skill-up and out-perform them.
Many PMETs are not yet updated with the latest skills and expertise needed in the constantly changing work environment. The government has already provided a slew of subsidised training in the form of SkillsFuture courses that will equip them with the latest skills.
Find out what the ‘in-demand’ skills are and pro-actively sign up to learn them. Individuals above 40 are given $1,000 in Skills-Future credit to spend on courses that are already 90% subsidised, so there is no acceptable excuse not to upskill.
In the global skills market, the workers with the best, most relevant and in-demand skills will always have the advantage.
2. Get Real
Quit whining, stop complaining.
As much as this situation puts us in a rather uncomfortable position, we need to realise that this is the new market reality.
We should resist the temptation to be distracted by populist rhetoric regarding foreign talents in Singapore stealing local jobs. Focus instead on the fact that our jobs will soon be taken by workers beyond our striking distance.
We need to understand how to differentiate ourselves from others in terms of our local knowledge, understanding of neighbouring markets, or via our deep domain or technical expertise.
We should refrain from being complacent and realise that nobody owes us a living. We have to keep adapting to thrive in this shifting market.
3. And if You Can’t Beat Them…
This phenomenon is not unique to Asia.
Globally, the impact of the Distance Economy, Jobs Leakage and Talent Mobility has affected many markets, causing a reconfiguration of work delivery models.
Yes, Singaporeans will lose jobs. However, this also offers a unique opportunity to turn the tables and start poaching jobs from elsewhere.
One of our clients who is a VP for Industrial Design recently accepted an offer from a European Medical Device Company.
Based on his specific expertise, this talented Singaporean beat a slate of qualified candidates from around the world.
Interestingly, this became a win-win for all parties because hereceived a salary increase whilst the company enjoyed cost-savings compared to hiring a local European at local rates.
Instead of adopting a ‘victim’ mentality, let’s use this seismic shift to our advantage and go after roles that were traditionally beyond our reach and spread our wings globally.