Temp jobs now a permanent feature

MOM figures show pool of contract staff has grown; 1 in 3 a poly or varsity graduate

By Dickson Li
22 March 2010

Amid the depths of the recession last year, accounts executive Wayne Ng counted his lucky stars that he had managed to secure a job with one of the big four accounting firms.

There was just one snag though – it was not a permanent job but a two-year contract.

‘Obviously, I would have preferred a permanent job, but this was a chance to work with one of the most prestigious firms. It would perk up my CV… and I knew it would give me valuable exposure,’ said Mr. Ng.

Human resource experts agree that working under such contracts is becoming the norm, especially as the concept of a ‘flexible workforce’ becomes increasingly in vogue.

‘It is highly likely that contract employment is here for the long run, especially with an increasingly mobile workforce,’ said Mr. Dhirendra Shantilal, senior vice-president Asia Pacific, Kelly Services.

And this is not necessarily a bad thing – for both employees and employers.

‘Employers sometimes adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach to taking on full-time staff and utilising contract and temporary employees after a time of economic slowdown,’ said Ms Lynne Ng, regional director at Adecco South East Asia.

‘This is an excellent way of moving forward while still being cautionary.’

In Singapore, the pool of contract staff has been steadily growing over the last four years, according to Ministry of Manpower figures.

Last year alone, while the number of permanent employees inched up 0.8 per cent, the number of resident employees on term contracts rose 4.3 per cent to 197,200. Four years ago, that figure stood at 172,000.

Those doing temporary jobs should undertake it with a smile, as human resource executives say it is one way of getting back into the workforce.

‘With the job market warming up to the nascent economic recovery, these temporary positions may also eventually convert into permanent ones,’ Kelly Services’ Mr. Shantilal said.

Mr. Neil Wilson, the managing director of British recruitment firm Badenoch and Clark, told CNN that temporary employees should ‘go in and show an interest in the company and what they’re doing and if you’re prepared to take on extra work… that all potentially adds up to someone who puts himself in a position where he’s invaluable to the company’.

Other tips for converting that temporary job into a permanent post include working to the best of one’s ability.

Mr. Wilson told CNN that some temporary jobs involve clearing a backlog of work.

If the employee is able to finish that project in a shorter time than was allocated, that good performance may lead to a permanent role or at the very least, garner a good reference for one’s next job.

Contrary to popular opinion, temporary work is not solely for unskilled jobs, as a good 34.3 per cent of employees on term contracts hold a polytechnic diploma or a degree.

‘Over the past few years, we have also seen the emergence of ‘executive leasing’ where a company hires a senior executive on a fixed term basis, like six months, to come into the organisation to perform a specific task,’ said Adecco’s Ms Ng.

Judging from the rapidly changing employment landscape, companies have to be on their toes and make the corresponding tweaks in remuneration.

‘To attract top quality talent, many companies in Singapore are now offering temporary and contract staff the same benefits as they offer their full-time staff – as they know this is the only way to attract and retain the best talent,’ Ms Ng said.

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