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Jobs in banking and tech “resilient” even as Singapore faces worst recession since independence

If you’re working in financial services or technology in Singapore, count yourself lucky. As Singapore heads towards its worst recession since independence in 1965, jobs in the two sectors are helping to prop up a flailing economy.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) has now downgraded Singapore’s 2020 growth forecast to between -4% and -7%. “There continues to be a significant degree of uncertainty over the length and severity of the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as the trajectory of the economic recovery, in both the global and Singapore economies,” MTI said in a statement on the Republic’s economic performance.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower said yesterday that this uncertainty means the country must be prepared for more retrenchments.

Should you be worried about your job if you work for a firm in the finance or tech sectors? Not necessarily.

The MTI statement highlights year-on-year contractions during Q1 in industries such as construction, transportation and storage, and accommodation and food services. By contrast, the finance and insurance sector expanded 8% year-on-year in Q1, faster than the 4% growth achieved in the previous quarter. “The robust performance of the sector was driven by strong growth in the banking and insurance segments,” said MTI, without providing further explanation.  

The technology sector – which the ministry calls information and communications (ICT) – is also identified as one of Singapore’s “pockets of resilience”, which have helped ensure that the economy only shrunk by 0.7% in the opening quarter, better than a 2.2% drop earlier estimated.

ICT expanded by 3.5% in the first quarter. “Growth was mainly supported by the IT and information services segment on account of firms’ sustained demand for IT and digital solutions,” said MTI.

While these MTI numbers refer to Q1, DBS senior economist Irvin Seah told the Straits Times that finance and ICT services will likely outperform other sectors for the remainder of this year, and will also bounce back faster as the economy recovers. Service industries which are “more digitalised will better weather the pandemic”, he added. As we’ve previously reported, DBS, OCBC and UOB have all announced increase usage of their digital platforms as customers perform more transactions online during the pandemic.

If Seah is correct about financial services being a bright spot during the Singaporean recession, banks will be more likely to fulfill their promises to not cut jobs. Asia-focused banks including HSBC, Standard Chartered DBS, OCBC and UOB have said they will refrain from making redundancies, as have some global firms such as Citi, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

But while financial services may outperform other sectors to the extent that redundancies are not required, that doesn’t mean hiring levels at banks will return to normal anytime soon. Recruiters in Singapore say they expect banks to continue to keep strict controls on their hiring budgets for the foreseeable future.

Photo by John T on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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