Singapore Job Offers Canceled Amid Recession, Recruiters Say

Job seekers in Singapore are seeing signed employment contracts rescinded as businesses cut back on hiring during the pandemic-triggered recession, recruiters say.

There was a spike in cases of companies canceling job offers in late March and early April, said Rob Bryson, managing director of recruitment agency Robert Walters Singapore. Unlike the global financial crisis, when most jobs affected by the downturn were in banking, industries now taking a knock include retail and aerospace, according to Nilay Khandelwal, managing director at Michael Page Singapore.

There are no hard figures to show how widespread the practice is, but the comments reflect uncertainty about business prospects as the city-state endures its worst recession on record.

The jobless rate rose to 2.9% in the second quarter, the highest since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, the Ministry of Manpower said Wednesday. Total employment, excluding foreign direct workers, declined by 121,800 — a more than four-fold increase from the first quarter — and retrenchments doubled to 6,700 in the period.

Euben Paraceulles, an economist at Nomura Holdings Plc, estimates the jobless rate could reach 4.5% in the second half of this year, which would be close to the 4.8% peak reached in the aftermath of the SARS pandemic.

Paul Hoon, 44, said he resigned from his job in early June after signing a contract to be a regional supplier quality manager with a U.S.-based company that designs and builds commercial fans. The day before he was due to start, the company informed him it had “ceased” the contract because of the economic blow from Covid-19.

Derrick Lim also lost out on a new job: The Singaporean said he was offered a job as a customer experience manager at a car dealership company at the end of February, but the human resources general manager later advised him to rejoin his previous firm. It took 14 job interviews before he found a new position, he said.

Michael Page’s Khandelwal said businesses are canceling jobs in regional sales and talent acquisition, although “bright spots” still remain in technology, especially developer roles.

Bryson, of Robert Walters recruiters, said there’s been a general downturn in hiring and a slowdown in the process. Businesses “will only start the hiring process if they have a clear internal mandate to do so, rather than making speculative hires,” he said.