New skills vital in tough times

Higher qualifications are no guarantee of job security

PublishedSep 19, 2016, 5:00 am SGT


An economist was reported as attributing the situation of layoffs to companies replacing lower-wage workers through restructuring and automation (“43-year-old manager yet to find work, 4 months on“; last Friday).

The idea that workers lower in the hierarchy are more likely to be fired is an odd one, as the figures on the people who were made redundant in the second quarter of this year showed that 64.5 per cent have a diploma, degree or professional qualifications, and nearly 69 per cent were professionals, managers, executives or technicians (PMETs).

The article also noted that Ms Shabnam Manan believed her lack of a university degree contributed to her inability to get a new job.

However, the numbers suggest that a degree may not actually help.

Returning to the job market has become more difficult. We have to confront the facts.

 The numbers suggest that older Singapore residents may be over-qualified, or that their higher qualifications have become less relevant.

Their longer work experience may justify higher wages, but employers may think older workers are over-priced, compared to less experienced ones.

It is time to dispel the myth that higher educational qualifications and being a PMET provide better job security. The numbers have spoken.

New virtual career fair to help job-seekers

Published Sep 16, 2016, 10:08 pm SGT

SINGAPORE -The Government is taking the job hunt further online, as it holds its first virtual career fair that targets mostly white-collar job-seekers.

The Adapt and Grow Virtual Career Fair, which started last week, hit the middle of its stride as sobering figures on the labour market were released by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) on Thursday (Sept 15).

The figures show rising unemployment and layoffs in the first half of the year reaching a seven-year-high.


Jobseekers also now outnumber job vacancies for the first time since 2012.

The two-week virtual fair by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) is meant to help jobseekers expand their network and connect with potential employers online.

Fifty-one employers from sectors such as info-communications and technology, aerospace, and biomedical sciences are offering up to 500 vacancies through the fair.

The median salary for these job offers is $4,500 a month.

Close to 400 web chats have been lined up for job-seekers with either potential employers or career coaches.

While the virtual fair runs from Sept 7 to 21, a physical fair was held on Friday (Sept 16) afternoon at the Devan Nair Institute for those who wanted to meet employers in person.

Besides speaking with more than 25 employers, those attending could also attend motivational workshops on how to prepare for interviews and present speeches.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, the event’s guest of honour, said the virtual fair was a cheaper and faster way to match jobseekers, especially professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), with vacancies.

Since the virtual fair started, he said, about 2,000 people have signed up and 300 of them have submitted 1,000 applications through the platform.

The fair is the latest in a series of measures that the MOM has been rolling out to combat unemployment, Mr Lim said.

It is a “cheaper, faster, and better” version of the physical career fairs that are traditionally held for rank-and-file workers, and is intended to reduce job mismatch, he added.

In the past 10 days, the Government has also launched two Industry Transformation Plans for the food and beverage and retail industries – part of the services sector which formed the bulk of layoffs in the last quarter.

Mr Lim acknowledged Singaporeans were concerned about the gloomy picture painted by Thursday’s figures, and said his ministry is preparing for the worst. “As the industry transforms faster, the pace of retrenchment may actually pick up,” he said.

But he stressed that Singapore must not stop its restructuring efforts, or it will continue to be heavily reliant on foreign manpower and unable to create the kinds of quality careers Singaporeans want.

As for those whose jobs are cut along the way, he urged: “Be prepared to adapt.”

Workers need to do their part too, he said. “We are supporting them with everything possible, not just with jobs and careers but even with wage subsidies and training support.

“Instead of worrying that retrenchments and unemployment get worse, let’s be proactive and take action. The more proactive we are, the less likely unemployment will go up.”

Web applications consultant Yeo Ying Yong, 33, who was at the physical fair to meet employers, said the virtual portal was useful to find out more about the jobs he was interested in. He has applied to six organisations through the fair.

He hoped, however, that more resources would be made available, such as mock technical tests that web developers like himself must take to get hired.


Layoffs, jobless rates rise amid sluggish economy

PublishedSep 16, 2016, 5:00 am SGT

Reflecting slowing economic conditions, workers here faced a gloomy labour market in the second quarter of the year, with unemployment and layoffs rising.

Job vacancies, which have been falling since last year, went below the number of job seekers for the first time since 2012.

These sobering figures were released by the Manpower Ministry yesterday.

The unemployment rate rose to 2.1 per cent in June from 1.9 per cent in March.

Among Singaporeans, the rate rose to 3.1 per cent from 2.6 per cent in the same period. When combined with the data for permanent residents, the rate went to 3 per cent from 2.7 per cent.

 These rates are adjusted for such seasonal factors as Chinese New Year and school holidays.

Looking at the first six months of the year, more workers were asked to go than in the same period last year.

In all, 9,510 workers were retrenched or had their contracts aborted, a new peak since the global financial crisis in 2009.

One bright spot was that labour productivity rose by 0.8 per cent in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year.

At the same time, employment growth was greater.

The ministry said it expects labour demand to stay modest for the rest of the year and for layoffs to rise in sectors with weak external demand and in those undergoing restructuring.

More jobless and fewer openings at firms

Published Sep 16, 2016, 5:00 am SGT

Overall unemployment rate rose to 2.1 per cent in June after taking into account seasonal factors

The slowing economy has cast a pall over the labour market, with more people losing their jobs and companies having fewer job openings in the second quarter of this year compared with the first quarter.

For the first time in four years, there were also fewer vacancies than job seekers, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s figures released yesterday.

This means workers have to moderate their expectations of pay and job prospects and be prudent in spending, said DBS economist Irvin Seah.

“The writing is on the wall. We’ll continue to see a softening in the labour market because of further risks to growth,” he added.

The overall unemployment rate rose to 2.1 per cent in June this year after taking into account seasonal factors such as Chinese New Year and the school holidays.


The seasonally adjusted rate was 1.9 per cent in March.

For Singaporeans, unemployment rose to 3.1 per cent in June, from 2.6 per cent in March.

When citizens and permanent residents are combined, the rate climbed to 3 per cent from 2.7 per cent in the same period.

Job vacancies, which have been falling steadily since last year, hit 49,400 in June.

As a result, the ratio of job openings to jobless people fell below one for the first time since June 2012.

“It may be increasingly difficult to characterise the job market as tight,” said Citi economist Kit Wei Zheng, adding that wage growth could slow.

The ministry, in a separate statement, gave total employment growth in the first six months of this year, saying it picked up against the same period last year despite manufacturing continuing to shed workers.

But local employment dipped by 200 – far fewer than the 8,900 drop in the first half of last year.

The decline can be attributed to both structural and cyclical factors, said the ministry.

“Structurally, growth of the local working-age population is slowing, due to smaller cohorts of younger locals entering the workforce, and more ‘baby boomers’ retiring… local employment growth since 2015 has been further weighed down by cyclical weakness in the economy due to the subdued global economic conditions,” it said.

Meanwhile, a net 11,800 foreign employees were added in the first half of the year, excluding foreign domestic workers.

The bulk of them, or 9,300, were work permit holders, many of whom found work in the food and beverage as well as the administrative and support service industries.

This brought the total number of people working in Singapore to 3,673,400 in June.

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong said the way to ensure sustainable employment growth is to raise productivity by redesigning jobs or re-skilling.

Courses in compliance and regulatory areas, as well as IT and coding skills, were recommended by Mr Foo See Yang, vice-president and country general manager for recruiter Kelly Services Singapore.

There could also be a shortage of workers in sectors catering to domestic demand, such as community, social and personal services, and accommodation and food services, said the ministry.

“Businesses will need to press on with job redesign and restructuring to become more manpower-lean, as the Government continues to regulate foreign manpower inflow at a moderated pace,” it added.



Society must help unemployed get jobs


Aug 18, 2016, 5:00 am SGT


It was heartening to read about the study done by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School on unemployed Singaporeans seeking managerial and professional positions (“Job search fatigue and re-employment quality“; Monday).

It offered insight into the plight of those who have lost their jobs and suggested ways to minimise job search fatigue. Let me add more suggestions.

First, we must provide some social security and arrange some sort of bridging finance scheme for the duration of the job search until a person manages to get the next job. Why not take a portion of a worker’s paid tax and Central Provident Fund money and reserve it for job-loss financing, subject to a time limit?

Second, all stakeholders of society, from the job seeker’s family and friends to social institutions, must make all possible effort to boost the morale of the job seeker.

Regular counselling, networking with prospective employers, arranging part-time jobs and matching his skills are possible things to put into action.

We should not forget that keeping a valuable resource idle is a loss for the country.

How fast a job seeker gets the next suitable job is also the responsibility of society, and not just the responsibility of the individual person.

Atanu Roy



14 oddest jobs in the world of healthcare


6 days ago, Brenda Lau
One of the odd jobs in the world of healthcare involves sniffing for potentially dangerous chemicals to keep them out of space vehicles
Ever watch a movie or drama series revolving around a hospital and wonder if some of the jobs the extras portray are actually real? Or have you ever wondered who drew the illustrations in medical textbooks? You’re about to find out! Some of these jobs may be a surprise to you and some may not. Here, we compile 14 of the oddest jobs in the world of healthcare.

1. Pimple doctor

If you have been to a salon for a facial before, you would have experienced the satisfaction of all your blackheads or pimples being extracted. One doctor in California, has taken this to the next level. Dr. Sandra Lee aka Dr. Pimple Popper, is a dermatologist who specialises in extracting blackheads, whiteheads and cysts from any body part – and she films her procedures for YouTubers around the world to savour. Her videos range from simple blackhead extraction on the nose to the removal of large lipomas on the arm. If you can stomach watching her videos, she would succeed in her aims of providing people a better understanding of how to take care of their skin and creating awareness of various skin conditions and diseases.

2. Travelling phelbotomist

A phelbotomist is just a fancy medical-sounding term for a vampire. Alright, that is an exaggeration. Phelbotomists draw blood for a living to help with donations, transfusions or other research. You can find them in blood donation drives, hospitals and clinics. However, they are not limited to one facility and can instead work as travelling phelbotomists, going wherever work is available – even on a plane. Most of their time is spent on reassuring patients who are squeamish about needles. Their career is also a long and in-demand career and can earn up to USD 40,000 a year.

3. Sleep technologist

No, it does not mean experimenting on different methods of sleeping. Instead, a sleep technologist is paid to watch you sleep – which can be creepy. But it might help if you have a sleeping disorder as they specialise in processing, monitoring, and recording data during a person’s sleep cycle. They use all sorts of polysomnography equipment that help them figure out the cause of sleep disorders – even snoring.

4. Egg broker

A team of professional egg brokers consist of a medical facility and staff orchestrating and matching donors to childless couples who are seeking alternative solutions. More formally, they are known as the “Task Force Advisory Group on Assisted Reproductive Technologies” that has been organised to oversee the medical professionalism of the egg-donating industry. These workers include infertility specialists, ethicists, obstetricians, gynecologists, and nurses. They usually break many hearts of egg donors as most couples only seek for “attractive women under the age of 29” and with SAT scores above 1,300 as egg donors. Genetic prejudice is an obvious factor here.

5. Space psychologist

No, they do not assess the mental health of planets. While many space psychologists begin with the dream of being astronauts, however they may not be cut out for the journey. Instead, they advise selection panels about which astronauts are best suited for a particular team or mission. As a trip to space has high risks and the possibility of never returning to earth, space psychologists also provide counselling to support the emotional and mental health of the crew before, during and after the flight.

6. Perfusionist

In movies, a scene of a heart surgery always has a person handling machines in the background. That would be a perfusionist. They operate heart and lung machines that substitute the functions of the respective organs of the patient while they are being operated on.

There is a Certified Clinical Perfusonist (CCP) qualification that is required to carry out this job. They do not have to work full-time hours and usually work on an on-call basis. The annual salary of a perfusionist can range between USD 105,000 to USD 129,000.

7. Scatologist

A scatologist is a nice term for a poop doctor. It isn’t the most glamorous of careers, however the study of excrement can reveal a lot about an individual, including his or her habits, overall health and presence of disease. The bacteria in faeces provide a non-intrusive sampling of an individual’s gut flora and fauna, which can be used to determine its health. For example, poop transplants can be an effective means of treating intractable gut infections by reestablishing a healthy bacterial equilibrium.

8. Snake milker

Also on the list, is the snake milker – while not exactly a job of a healthcare professional but it does relate to improving healthcare.

Snakes do not produce milk but they do produce venom. While it might sound highly inaccurate, snake milkers are actually animal care specialists who extract the venom of poisonous snakes. The venom is deadly on its own; however it is also a life-giving substance and the main ingredient in snakebite antidotes and a wide range of medicines.

Snake milkers extract or ‘milk’ the venom from a snake’s fangs, following which, the venom can be made into a freeze-dried powder for research laboratories to produce anti-clotting or blood thinning drugs for blood clots, heart attacks and high blood pressure.

9. Master sniffer

Another on the outlier list is George Aldrich. No ‘nasalnaut’ or Master Sniffer can outrank George Alrdich who is a chemical specialist in the Molecular Desorptioin Analysis Laboratory at White Sands. His job is to keep the US space corps from the crime punishable by death of smelling bad.

Simply put, his job consists of sniffing a variety of chemicals and substances to ensure that they are not dangerous for a space vehicle. These missions ensure that the space project goes all the way to completion. Aldrich may have started out as a human guinea pig, but has since then been profiled on the news and publicised as the “Neil Armstrong of nasal performance”.

10. Sex surrogate

Prostitution is rife amongst medical students and it is no wonder the medical industry creates a legal version of it known as the International Professional Surrogates Association for surrogate partners and the therapists who back them.
The role of a sex surrogate is simple. After each session, the surrogate reports on the behaviour of a sex therapist’s patient to the therapist and together they discuss ways to address issues like sexual intimacy problems, impotence, sexual addiction and adult virginity – when psychological counselling and medication are not working anymore. The sex surrogate provides planned intimacy and in extreme cases, sex.

Despite that, IPSA founders are careful to distance themselves from prostitution, since sex is not usually required and the more important issue is how the patient responds to the therapist’s treatment. After the movie “The Sessions”, Cheryl Greene became the world’s most famous sex surrogate as the movie portrayed her to have helped over 900 people in sexually healing ways, all by using the same formula – intimacy.

11. Art or music therapist

Looking at a piece of art or listening to your favourite music has the power to calm you down in any situation. Similarly, both art therapy and music therapy have been clinically proven to improve behaviour patterns of individuals that have problems revolving around depression, anxiety, dementia and fine motor skills. This sort of therapy applies to both adults and children. It has also been shown to be effective for stimulation, motivation and communication.

12. Laughter therapist

Not so keen on art or music? The saying “laughter is the best medicine” probably came as a motto from a laughter therapist. But indeed, laughter has been found to reduce stress and boost the immune system, which is probably why comedians do so well. Wait a minute, then isn’t a laughter therapist and a comedian the same?

Jokes aside, laughter therapists actually lead exercises that help patients have deep, joyful laughter similar to what babies experience instead of hollow jokes and comedy. This helps the depressed patients to climb out of depression and suicidal thoughts.

13. Wound-care specialists

Got a wound? Dab a bit of antibiotics, seal it up and you’ll be fine, right? Unfortunately, infected tissue has to be removed in bigger wounds to improve healing and wound-care specialists are trained to do that. Besides working in hospitals and nursing home, wound-care specialists also travel and treat patients at their homes.

This field is relatively new and primarily dedicated to caring for bedsores. In the United States, bedsores cause 60,000 deaths per year and cost USD 1 billion annually, so effective care of bedsores is crucial. Wound-care specialists ensure that bedsores do not lead to death.

14. Medical illustrator

The “Atlas of Human Anatomy” is a famous medical book for school children and medical students alike. Its illustrator, Frank Netter, was a surgeon and an artist and is considered one of the most gifted medical illustrators. He was once dubbed the “Michelangelo of Medicine”.

Medical illustrators are a small group of artists who specialise in combining their medical and scientific knowledge with art and design skills to visually translate and explain medical and scientific information in a way those in the medical field — and patients and students — can understand. It is estimated there are no more than 1,200 working in North America and even fewer worldwide.

They are not just limited to documenting the biology of organisms and surgical procedures, but also graphically represent medical information and create art for a range of purposes such as surgical training, science journals, pharmaceutical company materials, science education programs, legal proceedings and textbooks. They also sculpt training models and prosthetic devices, design computer-based educational programs and create animations. MIMS