THE slow economy is prompting companies to hire more temporary or part-time workers, a cost-cutting move that could see new labour policies being introduced.
That is because when the economy matures, the transformation of the workforce will accelerate, as demonstrated in the United States where up to 4% of workers are hired on such flexible work packages.
In Singapore, the number is still small but not insignificant, said the Manpower Ministry. It hit almost 37,000 last year, a 50% jump over the 24,600 recorded four years earlier.
The ministry’s 22-page report, released Friday, also identified changing trends in the workweek and annual leave given.
But the ministry said this growing pool of what it called ‘contingent workers’ posed ‘challenges to the traditional employer and employee relationship’.
In turn, it may require ‘new policy responses to support increased mobility of the workforce’. These workers, being non-permanent, are not eligible for staff benefits such as medical and insurance benefits, which can be costly.
They were favoured in these uncertain economic times because they gave companies the flexibility to adjust their manpower more readily to changing demand, said the report.
Manufacturing companies are especially keen on such work arrangements, hiring these workers directly on short-term contracts, or getting them through recruitment agencies. More workers are also seeking such work.
Sharon Goh, a director of international recruitment agency Temp-Team, said 30% more people were asking her firm to find them temporary work.
The new attitude, as it persists and spreads, may force a change in human resource policies, to provide these workers with special ‘flexi-benefits’.
One human resource director said companies could introduce medical benefits pegged to the number of hours a person worked in a month.
Besides flexibility, more bosses are leaning towards a shorter workweek. Last year, 38% of full-time workers did a five-day week against 35% in 1996. The corresponding figures for five-and-a-half days are 16% (22%) and six days, 17% (20%).
People also get more annual leave, a consequence of a more educated workforce. The change is especially notable in the financial industry, with its high concentration of qualified staff. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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