The worldwide coronavirus outbreak is having an enormous impact on the global economy on a daily basis, and Singapore is no exception. From reduced air freight leaving China hampering supply chains to a dramatic decline in tourism affecting retail and hospitality, Singapore, like many other countries, is being forced to adapt day by day. However, the outlook isn’t all negative for Singapore.
Although one of the first Asian countries to be affected by COVID-19, the Singapore authorities acted fast and thanks to the intensive contact tracing processes initiated, they have managed to limit the spread as much as possible. Many news portals are now championing Singapore’s methodology as a shining example of how to deal with the virus at a national level. Last month’s Budget also announced an S$800 million package of additional healthcare funding to help contain coronavirus.
Despite its growth forecasts being revised downwards this year, Singapore’s historical stability and importance as an innovative, financial hub to the region presents an interesting opportunity for its economy in the light of the current financial climate. We have already seen some banking and finance relocation from Hong Kong, and it is estimated that other countries could also turn to Singapore for strategic relocation. The enforced severing of supply chains from China could reposition Singapore positively in the long term too. As well as its healthcare package, the recent Budget also addressed the impact of the coronavirus on the employment market with a new Jobs Support Scheme to help companies offset part of employees' pay to help businesses retain local staff during the economic slowdown.
Challenging markets and uncertainty forces firms to re-evaluate their business models including talent management. This has resulted in a decline or even a freeze in permanent hiring in many industry sectors, presenting opportunities for contract workers to step in. Organisations are acknowledging that a flexible workforce is the way forward to navigate these troubled times and this mentality shift is creating a real demand for interim professionals. The current climate has also highlighted the importance of digital transformation across industries as they look to adapt and reinvent themselves. This has resulted in a spike in demand for contract change management and transformation specialists. More employers are also introducing flexible working as a way to remain an attractive proposition to candidates, meaning that the opportunities and work/life balance options are improved for sought-after interims.
Despite the cancellation of some industry events and conferences due to coronavirus, the tech sector marches on, opening up opportunities for specialists, as well as widening the remit of HR in terms of reskilling. Twitter is increasing its presence in Singapore, recently announcing its first Asia-Pacific engineering centre, and putting the spotlight firmly on data science talent in the region. Singapore’s increased focus on tech in the workplace has resulted in its SkillsFuture initiative, which supports Singaporeans retraining, with L&D among HR professionals coming to the fore. The government is also aiming to train and mentor the business leaders of its SME’s under a new Enterprise Leadership for Transformation programme, to encourage and facilitate business transformation, which is likely to see demand for talent in that area.
Interestingly, there are certain industries that are thriving right now, namely e-Commerce and Delivery businesses as well as video conferencing and remote working software companies. These types of businesses are booming because of the way coronavirus is drastically changing to our lives and work, as we increasingly rely on technology to help keep us connected and to purchase and deliver our goods.
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