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Upgrading And Upskilling Remain Key For Employability

Advance estimates from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) showed that the labour market continued to expand in the last quarter of 2023. Unemployment rates remained stable, while retrenchments eased. More information will be available in the Labour Market Report Fourth Quarter 2023, due for release in mid-March 2024.

Based on the preliminary data released on 31 January 2024, for the whole of 2023, employment grew for both residents and non-residents, but the pace of growth moderated in each successive quarter amid weaker economic conditions. However, the labour market remained tight even with labour demand cooling. Consequently, unemployment rates remained stable and low. The number of retrenchments rose in 2023 after a record low in 2022, largely a result of reorganisation or restructuring within firms.

MOM’s surveys indicated an improvement in business expectations, alongside the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s expectation of improved economic growth prospects for 2024. The proportion of firms which indicated an intention to hire in the next three months rose from 42.8% in the previous quarter to 47.7% in the fourth quarter of 2023. Likewise, the proportion of firms with an intention to raise wages rose from 18.0% to 32.6%. Nevertheless, as downside risks in the global economy remain, business reorganisation or restructuring will continue and may lead to further retrenchments.


For workers, the message about the job market – and their employability going forward – remains unchanged: they must continue to upgrade and reskill for the new economy. In this regard, workers can turn to the Skills Demand For The Future Economy (SDFE) 2023/24 report to gain insights into the work skills and types of jobs that employers are looking for this year.

The report identifies 24 priority skills that are expected to grow in demand and transferability. These skills span various domains and include Business Management, Data Management, Production Management, and Operations Management.

The work that accountants do, such as in the areas of governance, risk management and sustainability, has equipped them with several of the in-demand skills listed in the report. So, while others need to reskill to attain these capabilities, accountants are ready to step into the emerging roles. Some of the skills are Business Insights, Business Management, Carbon Accounting, Carbon Footprint Management, Carbon Markets and Decarbonisation Strategic Management, Financial Analysis, Financial Management, Governance, Quality Assurance and Audit, Sustainability Risk Management, and Sustainability.

The report also lists critical core skills, the top five of which are Digital Literacy, Adaptability and Resilience, Problem Solving, Communication, and Collaboration and Teamwork.


Right at the start of the year, Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng was reiterating the message of upgrading and reskilling to remain employable, in The Straits Times Work Talk Podcast on 1 January 2024.

Dr Tan states, “We’re an open economy. Whether we like it or we don’t, competition will come, right?” His advice for workers is that “the best defence is actually going on the offence, taking the initiative and getting the best training and skill sets so we can surmount career challenges that may come”.

While the onus lies on the individual to take care of his/her own career health, Dr Tan says the government is playing its part to ensure that tools are available for every Singaporean to take responsibility for his/her own career progression. He cites CareersFinder, a career portal, as an example. CareersFinder is an interactive platform which tells Singaporean workers where they are, where the world and job market are going to be moving over the next five to 10 years and, significantly, the skills gaps that they might have. It then advises on the subsidised skills courses that are available to local workers and jobseekers, to ensure a better career match with future hiring companies.

Government initiatives, insights and publications, including the Labour Market Report Fourth Quarter 2023, and SDFE 2023/24, aim to support workers in their career journey.

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