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Lunar New Year hiring to slow down in Singapore

Singapore’s job market isn’t likely to keep pace with last year’s torrid growth even as banks reopen following the Lunar New Year break and we enter the post-bonus hiring season, according to recruiters.

While 2022 was an all-guns-blazing-affair thanks to post-Covid market recoveries, this year is expected to be more sedate because of mounting global economic headwinds. But there will still be post-bonus replacement hiring.

“There is a bit of global economic slowing, so unfortunately being an extremely open economy in Singapore, we do see some cautiousness,” says Christina Ng, managing director of the Asia Pacific region at LMA recruitment. “I wouldn't say it is negative, but it is a cautious wait-and-see approach.”

Signs of the global downturn can already be felt among Singapore’s domestic workforce as major corporations announce layoffs in anticipation of leaner times ahead.

Goldman Sachs announced recently that it would cut its global headcount by 6% while Morgan Stanley will cut its workforce by 2%, or roughly 1,600 positions. Earlier this month Goldman axed 16 jobs from its private wealth management business in Singapore, Hong Kong and China, according to Reuters.

“There is a bit of concern over the recession and the extent of it. Is it going to be a severe one? Will it hit Asia very badly?” says Ng.

She adds that some firms are timing their redundancies so that they don’t have to pay out annual bonuses. In Singapore, American financial services companies tend to pay bonuses in the January to February period, while European banks do so in February and March. Singaporean banks tend to pay their annual bonuses in March to April.

The staggered bonus payouts generally add up to a fairly busy recruitment process in the first half as firms replace people who leave.

“Some US firms have already announced [their bonuses], so right after Chinese New Year these bonuses will be out and we will definitely see resignations that will follow as a typical part of the cycle,” says Ng. She expects recruitment conditions to be flat by mid-year, which represents a cooling from rapid growth during that period last year.

Melody Leow, senior consultant, banking and financial services, at Ambition in Singapore believes the global chill is beginning to affect how banks in the Republic are shaping their headcount strategies. “I expect hiring managers to look at their team and strategy and make steps to fill any necessary gaps, but with caution,” says Leow.

She notes that recruitment activity is also driven by how candidates view their career prospects within the market conditions. “With talks of a looming recession, job stability will be on the forefront of candidates' minds. Candidates who find themselves in unstable companies will seek to move to a more stable environment, while candidates who have good job security will likely stay on in their firm,” says Leow.

Employees who have compensation packages weighted to a higher base salary and a lower bonus payout are less likely to jump ship, she adds.

Photo by Victor Larracuente on Unsplash

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