Singapore's hiring climate remains muted in Q4 2020. 

According to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Surveyonly 7% of the 462 employers surveyed in Singapore forecasted an increase in headcount. The large majority (73%) expected no change, while 10% anticipated a decrease in headcount. After accounting for seasonal variation, the resulting Net Employment Outlook (Outlook) stood at -3%.

While it was a sharp improvement of 25 percentage points (pp) when compared to last quarter, the Outlook remained 8pp weaker when compared to the same time last year. 

The good news is, the bulk of employers expected hiring activity to gradually recover to pre-COVID-19 levels within a year.

About a quarter (26%) of employers forecasted it will take 10 to 12 months, 22% anticipated it to return within the next 3 months and 19% expected this to take 4 to 9 months. Meanwhile, only 16% of employers estimated it will take longer than a year. 

When asked about existing members of the workforce that have been placed on a job retention or furlough scheme, 15% of companies revealed they plan to bring them back full-time, however, a portion (16%) had indicated that some of them will be let go.

ManpowerGroup Singapore Country Manager, Linda Teo, commented: “While there continues to be a strong demand of IT and digital talents due to accelerating digitalization, companies are also leveraging on the subsidies provided under the SGUnited Traineeships Program to hire talents for various business functions.”

By organisation size, employers in all four organisation size categories expected to reduce headcount during the next three months, most notably in the Large-size category (-10%). While the most resilient Outlook of -2% was reported by Small employers. Medium- and Micro-size employers, reported Outlooks of -5% and -3% respectively.

Zooming in on the sectors, employers in four of the seven industry sectors forecasted hiring gains in the fourth quarter. See the sector-specific forecasts below, from strongest to weakest Outlook.

Transportation & utilities

The transportation & utilities sector recorded the strongest hiring sentiments among the seven sectors, with an Outlook of +5%. The Outlook strengthened in comparison with both 3Q 2020 and the final quarter of 2019, by 6pp and 13pp respectively.

Finance, insurance & real estate

In the second place, employers in the finance, insurance & real estate sector anticipated slow-paced workforce gains during the coming quarter, reporting an Outlook of +3%. Hiring plans improved by 6pp quarter-over-quarter, but declined by 4pp when compared with this time one year ago.

Public admin & education

In the mid-point, the public admin & education sector reported an Outlook of +1%, with employers expecting limited hiring activity in the coming quarter. Hiring prospects declined by 7pp quarter-over-quarter and were 20pp weaker in comparison with this time last year, resulting in the weakest hiring plans in more than 11 years.

Mining & construction

The mining & construction sector also reported an Outlook of +1%. Hiring sentiment strengthened sharply in comparison with the prior quarter, increasing by 58pp, but is 11pp weaker year-over-year.


Employers in the services sector forecasted a subdued hiring climate in Q4 2020, reporting anOutlook of -1%. Compared with the prior quarter hiring plans improved sharply, increasing by 33pp. However, the Outlook declined by 3pp year-over-year.

Wholesale trade & retail trade

Job seekers in the wholesale trade & retail trade sector can expect a sluggish hiring pace in the next three months, according to employers who reported an Outlook of -7%. While hiring prospects were 12pp stronger quarter-over-quarter, employers reported a decline of 15pp when compared with Q4 2019.


The weakest hiring sentiment was in the manufacturing sector with the gloomy hiring climate expected to continue in the final quarter of 2020. Employers reported an Outlook of -12%, an improvement of 9pp when compared with the previous quarter, but a decline of 13pp in comparison with the same period in 2019.

In Asia Pacific, Employers in five countries and territories expected to add to headcount during the upcoming quarter, while staffing levels were expected to decline in two.

In a quarter-over-quarter comparison, Outlooks weakened in three countries and territories but strengthened in four. When compared with last year at this time, hiring prospects weakened in six countries and territories while remaining unchanged in the seventh.

The strongest regional Outlook was reported in Taiwan (+20%), while the weakest and only negative hiring climates were expected in Singapore (-3%) and Hong Kong (-2%).

sg en infog 4q20

Photo and infographic / ManpowerGroup Singapore

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