Singapore has long been angling to become a leading global tech hub and aims to add thousands of tech jobs every year. However, with its current education system, Singapore doesn't produce enough tech talent itself and it would be majorly reliant on foreign talent to enter the city-state, which may be problematic against the backdrop of strict immigration policies.
Singapore's universities and polytechnic schools produce around 400 graduates every year, meaning that it would need a significant number of foreign employees to enter the city-state to achieve its goal. However, Singapore gave out fewer employment passes in 2017 for the first time in five years, pointing to harsher immigration policies, and possibly, a lack of interest from foreign workers.
A homegrown e-marketplace service provider ran into a major hurdle in the early days of its regional expansion efforts. Like many fast-growing tech firms, the start-up struggled to hire a sufficiently large team of programmers and developers to support its growth.
"It's tough to be able to build a large enough team especially for a small company or startup. Talent is not readily available here, and it's also expensive," stated a company’s founder.
While this skills shortage has long been a bugbear in the tech industry, it is becoming increasingly felt as companies across sectors ramp up their digital transformation efforts. A 2016 survey by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) found demand for professionals is expected to rise by more than 42,000 from 2017 to 2019.
Demand is strongest for junior to mid-level tech roles, but there aren't enough candidates who have the necessary experience in Singapore because many of these fields are still new.
"The thought of hiring engineers here is extremely daunting, partly because of the cost, as well as the fact that great talent is in short supply," shared another founder.
Technology candidates are insufficient in Singapore with demand only likely to grow over the quarter, according to recruitment experts Hays. Candidates that meet the requirements are so hard to find that important project work is being put on hold in many organizations or must make do with fewer resources than needed and this is proving to be a real struggle for Singapore companies.
There are a rising number of roles coming to market but most employers are struggling to fill them due to the major shortage of suitable local candidates. Perhaps looking abroad is a good way to circumvent this problem.