Employers turn to youth part-timers, paying more to relieve the labour crunch

Source From : Business Time, Author: Sharon See


STRAPPED by manpower shortage during the Covid-19 pandemic, several firms in Singapore have been turning to youth part-timers, even doling out more cash, to fill the gap during the festive period, recruiters said.

Recruiters told The Business Times companies are paying part-timers about 5-20 per cent more, depending on the role, and on average, the hourly rate in the fourth quarter is about S$10-11, up from S$9 a year ago.

“As the market is getting more competitive, employers are paying higher salaries as compared to 2020. This is to attract more workers to support the daily operations,” said Kelvin Foo, Director at recruiter RK Group.

This comes amid rising demand for local workers following a mass decline in foreign staff when borders began closing in early 2020, recruiters and job matches told BT.

Non-resident total employment, excluding domestic migrant workers, shrank by 181,500 in 2020, while that for the first 3 quarters of 2021 fell by over 50,000, according to data from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

In the lead-up to Chinese New Year, Stephan Brueggemann, co-founder of job matching platform WorkClass, said there has been a 25 per cent increase in the number of part-time jobs posted in January.

The retail sector saw a 30 per cent increase in part-time job postings, while that for food and beverage (F&B) was 37.5 per cent. Nearly a quarter of the jobseekers using WorkClass are aged 16-24, said Brueggemann.

He added there has also been a 48 per cent increase in the number of jobseekers aged 16 to 24 during the months of December and January – due to the festive period of Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year – compared to the “usual baseline” for signups from this age group.

“Based on our experience speaking with employers on our platform, students have indeed helped to fulfil some of the increase in demand. As the market is generally moving towards contract positions, it is easier for students to start and discontinue part-time positions after 3 months,” he said.

Lim Huishan, general manager for Singapore and the Philippines at Fast Jobs, noted that 1 in 2 jobseekers aged 13 to 19 were either shortlisted, “kept in view” or hired for the roles they applied for on the non-executive job portal in Q4, compared with about 1 in 3 during the same period in 2020.

“So the numbers bear out that employers are more willing to employ younger part-timers this year,” said Lim.

Companies most likely to consider youths below 18 include those in hospitality, F&B services, sales, retail and marketing, she added. Typical roles include part-time service crew, baristas, festive retail assistants, promoters and cashiers.

RK Group, which handles clients specialising in logistics, manufacturing and customer service, said they are also hiring parcel sorters, packers, data entry staff and SafeEntry personnel, said Foo.

He noted that such jobs typically require fewer skills and training and are less hazardous, whereas positions that require more physical work or higher-order skills and knowledge would not be suitable for youths.

Still, employers consider temporary workers to be more cost-effective compared to permanent ones in terms of salary and training, he said, noting that 50 per cent of the new hires in Q4 are on average aged 16-18.

“Bringing in youths to the company could ease temporary manpower needs. At the same time, the employer could take the opportunity to train their supervisors’ leadership as well as explore the potential leaders in their existing staff,” said Foo.

Young people also do not have “habits from previous workplaces that are hard to break”, making them easier to train, he added.

Brueggemann said although students can often only commit to 2-3 months of work during their vacation or up to 3 days of work during the semester, employers still like them because they can be reliable, fast learners and available on short notice.