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Singapore has consistently ranked as one of the world’s most talent-competitive countries. Over the past few years, it has solidified its position as the leading talent-competitive country in Asia.
As of the end of 2022, Singapore is the world’s second most competitive country in attracting talent. So, despite a global talent shortage in a post-COVID-19 world, how does it continue to attract and retain the world’s best talent?
Whether you are finding the best talent or setting up a business in a prime location where you can find the talented people you need, there is a lot to learn from Singapore’s approach.
Singapore’s Strong Economic Fundamentals
One of the key reasons that Singapore has been able to attract and retain top talent is its strong economic fundamentals. The country has a highly developed and diversified economy with a strong focus on innovation and technology.
This has made it an attractive destination for major tech firms, with 80 of the world’s top 100 tech companies operating in Singapore. Examples include blue chip brands like Google, IBM, and Microsoft, and disruptors like Zoom, ByteDance, and Tencent.
These firms have been drawn to the country’s strategic location at the heart of Southeast Asia, and its openness and innovation-friendly environment.
During the US-China "tech cold war," Singapore has continued to pursue a strategy of openness and innovation, which has helped it maintain its attractiveness as a destination for top talent.
In addition to its strong economic fundamentals, Singapore’s political stability, low crime rate, and high standard of living also make it an attractive place to live and work.
Talent Shortage and Strategies to Address It
Despite its strong economic fundamentals and strategic location, Singapore has struggled with a talent shortage in recent years.
A survey by human resources firm GlobalManpower ranked Singapore as the third most talent-starved country out of 40, with 84% of companies in Singapore reporting talent shortages.
This is partly because the information and communication technology (ICT) sector alone is projected to need an additional 60,000 workers by 2023. Singapore’s education system only produces around 2,800 ICT graduates annually, which is insufficient to fill manpower needs.
Additionally, only about a third of Singapore’s tech workforce is local, meaning that foreign workers will likely have to fill most vacancies.
To address this talent shortage, the Singaporean government has implemented several initiatives to attract foreign talent. For example, in January 2021, it introduced the Tech.Pass, which allows established foreign tech entrepreneurs, leaders, and experts to work in Singapore.
Related Read: Singapore Talent Outlook 2022: Top Tech Talent in High Demand »
This has helped to address the mismatch between supply and demand for digital workers in the country, which is expected to need an additional 1.2 million skilled workers by 2025, according to Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Additionally, in August 2022, the Minister of Manpower, Tan See Leng, introduced the Overseas Networks & Expertise (ONE) Pass, a 5-year work permit that has been implemented since January 2023.
This pass allows eligible applicants to work for multiple companies in Singapore simultaneously. It is available to those earning at least S$30,000 (US$21,000) per month or those with outstanding achievements in their respective fields.
It is by far and away Singapore’s most attractive and flexible working visa to date and should help to attract and retain the world’s top talent despite global shortages.
Nurturing Local Talent
In addition to its efforts to attract the best foreign talent, Singapore has also taken steps to nurture local talent and address concerns about the hiring rate from abroad, particularly in professional services positions that are highly sought after by locals.
One way it has done this is by reducing the Dependency Ratio Ceiling in the services sector from 38% to 35% in January 2021. This measure is intended to limit the number of foreign workers in the industry and encourage hiring local talent.
In addition to this policy change, the government has introduced several initiatives to support the development of local talents, such as the Singapore Global Executive Programme (SGEP).
This programme is designed to support local companies by investing in career development journeys for their local staff, helping to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in their roles and advance in their careers.
Another initiative aimed at nurturing local talent is the SkillsFuture initiative, which was launched in 2015. This programme provides Singaporeans with the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge throughout their lives.
It aims to help them stay competitive in the rapidly changing global economy. In 2020 alone, SkillsFuture assisted 540,000 Singaporeans.
It does this through a variety of measures, including:
- Subsidies for training courses
- The SkillsFuture Credit scheme, which provides Singaporeans with credits that can be used towards the cost of approved courses and activities
- The SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme, which provides structured on-the-job training and education for fresh graduates in high-growth sectors
Cementing Singapore’s Position as One of the World’s Best Destinations for Global Talent
Singapore’s strong economic fundamentals, strategic location, and proactive policies and initiatives around attracting and nurturing talent have contributed to its position as the leading talent-competitive country in Asia and one of the best in the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the country’s connectivity with global trading and business networks and caused some foreign professionals to return to their home countries.
However, Singapore’s proactive approach to addressing its talent shortage and fostering a welcoming environment for foreign workers has helped it weather the storm and emerge as an even more attractive destination for top talent.
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