The mystery of “so many” IT job vacancies?


Do you believe the job vacancies statistics?

I refer to the article “Fewer job openings in 2017, with more for PMETs: Ministry of Manpower” (Straits Times, Feb 8).

It states that “The number of job vacancies declined for the third year in a row last year, but more were for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), reflecting the overall shift towards higher value-added jobs.

Employers were able to find workers more quickly, and the proportion of vacancies unfilled for at least six months fell to 33 per cent, down from 36 per cent in 2016.

In all, there were 53,100 jobs up for grabs as of end-September last year, according to the latest Ministry of Manpower (MOM) job vacancies report released on Wednesday (Feb 7). This figure is down from 53,800 the year before and a peak of 67,400 in 2014.

Job vacancies refer to openings for which employers are actively recruiting workers from outside their businesses.

The share of vacancies for PMETs, who make up about 56 per cent of the resident workforce, rose last year.

Of all job openings, 49 per cent were for this group, up from 48 per cent the year before. More of these jobs were also in the information technology and engineering fields.”

You can see from the above table that there appears to be a total of 2,340 job vacancies for Information Technology (IT) professionals (computer technician; systems analyst; software, web and multimedia developer).

According to the Department of Statistics’ Yearbook of Statistics 2017 – the total number of resident workers (Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs)) in 2016, for Information and Communications (IC) was 84,600.

This figure has been declining from 99,900 in 2010.

In this connection, according to the article “S’pore may lack 30,000 professionals by 2017; not enough local grads, says industry” (Straits Times, Feb 8, 2016) –

150,000 IT professionals, 15,000 vacancies

  • “The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) told The Straits Times that in 2014, when there were 150,000 technology professionals working in Singapore, about 15,000 vacancies could not be filled.”

150,000 S’poreans, PRs & foreigners?

The subject article does not mention anything about the breakdown of the 150,000 IT professionals into Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners.

IT sector and jobs most affected by FT?

Anecdotally, I understand that the Information Technology (IT) sector and IT jobs may have been the most affected by our liberal foreign labour policies.

So, does it mean that 65,400 (150,000 – 84,600) of the 150,000 (assuming that this figure is the same for illustrative purposes) were foreigners?

How many of the 84,600 resident jobs were Singaporeans?

Steep decline in the number of resident jobs as they age?

For June 2014 – the percentage distribution of the IT jobs by age group was 31,600, 22,800, 12,100 and 3,400 – for age 30 – 39, 40 – 49, 50 – 59 and 60 and over, respectively.

For the previous year (June 2013) – it was a total of 92,100 jobs – 36,100, 24,400, 11,700 and 3,000 – for age 30 – 39, 40 – 49, 50 – 59 and 60 and over, respectively.

Locals’ IT jobs decrease, despite rising demand?

The above numbers do not seem to make any sense – because if the IT jobs have been growing so rapidly as suggested by numerous news reports – why is it that the total number of IT jobs held by locals (Singaporeans and PRs) decreased by 15,300, or about 15 per cent, from 99,900 in 201o to 84,600 in 2016?

In 2013 – amongst the 12 sectors in the services category – IC was the 6th highest in absolute numbers of workers in the age group 30 – 39.

But, it declines relatively to 7th, 11th, and joint last (12th) – for age 40 – 49, 50 – 59 and 60 and over, respectively.

This trend appears to persist in 2014 – 6th, joint 7th, 11th and 11th respectively.

What do these statistics mean?

Jobs taken by foreign workers?

Does it mean that as resident workers in IC age, their numbers decline – due to foreign workers?

Breakdown into citizens, PRs, employment pass, S-pass & work permits?

What is the breakdown of the total number of jobs in the Information and Communications category and IT jobs, into Singaporeans, PRs, employment pass, S-pass and work permits?”

Manpower development plan, but jobs to foreigners?

What’s the point of having an Infocomm plan to develop our IT manpower to meet rising demand, when most of the jobs may not be going to Singaporeans, possibly because we allow foreigners from all over the world to flock to Singapore to compete unfairly and take away jobs from Singaporeans?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.