A look into the future: Singapore's employment landscape

Attracting the best talent, promoting entrepreneurship and driving innovation are some of the ways in which Singapore can maintain its competitiveness, writes Gary Lai, Managing Director (SEA) of Charterhouse Partnership

Singapore is undergoing a huge transformation in manpower reallocation. The recent workforce budget has provided insights on the government’s direction into our future employment DNA. The budget appears to steer our local manpower resources into higher value knowledge- based positions whilst encouraging the continued flow of highly skilled foreigners.

Given the high cost of living and operating in Singapore, the government recognises that Singapore with its limited land and manpower resources would need to rapidly move up the higher value chain of employment. The proportion of PMET (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) will continue to increase, whilst low and semi- skilled workers will gradually shift out of Singapore into neighbouring countries that have a lower cost base structure.

The booming Iskandar region in Johor Bahru is a prime example. A number of manufacturing companies in Singapore are moving their operations there. The government even has assistance programmes to work with companies to facilitate these moves, while ensuring that they keep a crucial part of their R&D and corporate offices in Singapore.

Although Singapore does not have natural resources and with its limited land, its advantages include a solid infrastructure and judiciary system, wide use of the English language, high literacy and education framework, stable government and importantly for expatriates, a safe environment to raise families. All these, plus a low tax rate have attracted many senior executives wishing to relocate themselves and their key operations to Singapore. This will also fuel the booming banking sector, particularly wealth management as well as the property market, as more wealthy individuals base themselves locally.

The future of Singapore’s labour market lies in higher value-added industries such as Satellite & Space technology, Biomedical Sciences and Financial Services. This will also likely evolve our education system to support future employment industries. However, lower cost emerging economies are also increasing their productive labour force and the natural progression will be for them to move up the manufacturing value chain. As such, in order to sustain a high standard of living, Singapore must not only be able to attract the best minds and talent to the country but more importantly, encourage entrepreneurship amongst the population and with government agency support e.g. IE Singapore, be optimistic that Singapore will eventually have its home-grown MNCs.


Gary Lai

Managing Director (SEA), Charterhouse Partnership




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