Future of work Singapore: 15 post pandemic trends

by | May 3, 2021

Covid has placed the entire world on lockdown. Although the vaccines are out and the economy is recovering, there is no denying that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and disrupted many job markets.

What then becomes of the future of work? Specifically, Singapore’s future of work? Students who will soon enter the workforce will find themselves disoriented in a new and unusual environment.

That is why in this article, we’ll walk you through the future of work trends and in-demand skills to have in a post-pandemic environment.

1.) Future of work is from home

Working from home

The most obvious future of work trend and impact of Covid-19 would be that many organizations started implementing work from home schemes. Due to this, organizations realized that much of their work could be accomplished from the comfort of their own home.

Many companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Mastercard, and Shopify have decided to continue to work from home even after Covid. This also allows businesses to save on rental costs.

Furthermore, in a survey done by EngageRocket, it was found that 8 in 10 employees in Singapore wanted to continue working from home after Circuit Breaker.

Going on to forums like SGExams on Reddit, there are countless posts and comments about how students were less productive at home due to numerous distractions, which eventually affected their grades.

With so many companies adopting work from home schemes, it’s time to embrace this as the new normal for Singapore’s future of work, and get used to being cooped up at home.

2.) E-commerce

E-commerce

Even before the pandemic happened, we already begun to see brick-and-mortar stores lose market share to online stores.

The pandemic fast-tracked this process as many physical stores had closed. Subsequently, many turned to online stores to get their necessities.

If we want to know how E-commerce has done globally, we need only look at E-commerce giant Amazon. Amazon’s revenue increased from US$280.52 billion in 2019 to US$386.06 billion in 2020  38% increase in just one year.

In Singapore, we see similar results. According to iprice reports, for the first half of 2020, various e-commerce platforms in Singapore saw a 23% jump in web visits.

Compared globally, Singapore still has a relatively small e-commerce scene with only 5.6% of retail spending being e-commerce. This is in comparison with the UK and the US where e-commerce spending made up 21.8% and 11% of retail spending respectively.

This tells us that in Singapore, e-commerce still has the potential to grow as it catches up with more advanced e-commerce markets.

3.) Fintech

Fintech

As more businesses are shifting online, it’s important to streamline and automate their financial services. This along with the emergence of digital banking in Singapore suggests that fintech engineers will be in demand.

According to CPA Australia, it is expected that 73% of Singapore businesses will be using some form of fintech service by 2022. Also, it helps that MAS recently gave out 4 digital banking licenses.

Furthermore, fintech is important in understanding and implementing blockchain technology. This is important in this current day and age with the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

We start to see more businesses begin to accept Bitcoin as payment. Late last year, DBS also announced that it will begin facilitating the trading of these digital assets.

Since Singapore is already the regional headquarters of many MNCs, Singapore has the potential to be the regional leader in Fintech as well.

Although 96% of Singaporeans already have a bank account, only 41% of the population in Southeast Asia have a bank account. This is an example of an area of growth that Singapore can tap on to grow its fintech industry.

These factors give Singapore an advantage in the fintech space. Eventually, there will be more opportunities in the financial service industry as more people and businesses in Southeast Asia open bank accounts and adopt fintech services respectively.

4.) Data Scientist

Data scientist

With the new age of technology, many businesses have a lot of data. However, data on its own is useless, it is important for companies to be able to make use of and leverage the data that they have.

This is where data scientists come in. Data scientists are trained in data mining and visualization allowing them to make meaningful predictions and conclusions based on this data that can potentially give their organizations an edge in this ever-changing world.

Data scientists are currently the top-ranked job that is increasing in demand, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

According to EDB, in Singapore, the data analytics sector is expected to contribute at least $1 billion every year, and the regional market size is expected to reach $37 billion by 2022.

With Singapore having one of the fastest internets in the world, along with the fact that English is our first language, Singapore has an advantage in big data compared to other countries in Southeast Asia.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most in demand jobs to be seen in Singapore’s future of work.

5.) Digital marketing

Digital marketing

Even before the pandemic, many people were already active on social media, causing social media to be one of the most effective ways for companies to reach out and advertise to their consumers.

The pandemic only accelerated this process and many businesses were forced to shift online. In Q1 2020, we saw digital sales surge 18% compared to Q1 2019. Even as the world is starting to open up, many businesses will continue to stay and operate online.

As of mid-2020, 88.4% of Singapore’s population had access to the internet. That’s equivalent to 4.8 million Singaporeans.

Furthermore, projections for Singapore’s internet advertising market is expected to grow 8.4% per year to US $453 million in 2022. While mobile marketing is expected to reach US $261 million in 2022.

With a huge pool of users on the internet and an amazing growth trajectory for digital marketing, jobs in the digital marketing sector have experienced a surge in demand.

6.) Coding

Coding

The world is increasingly automated, and covid is only going to speed up this process.

The WEF Future of Jobs report suggested that 50% of businesses plan to accelerate automation.

As the world becomes increasingly automated, coding is the most obvious skill to possess right now.

Coding is what powers every single tech device that we currently have, from your smartphones to your calculators, and even your microwave.

To put it simply, coding is the language of technology, and it is how you control and program various devices.

In Singapore, more and more kids are learning coding. CNA reported that “19 secondary schools now teach programming at the GCE O-Level. 6 IP schools or junior colleges offer computing as an A-Level subject.”

Furthermore, according to Singstat, admissions to IT-related degrees have increased substantially. Data has shown that enrolment in IT-related degrees has increased from 1857 in 2004 to 8388 in 2019.

If you’re a student considering a diploma or degree to take up, an IT-related education would be incredibly useful for the future of work.

 

7.) Robotics

Robotics

On the topic of automation, we have robotics that contributes substantially to the future of work.

Robotic engineers are among the top 14 roles that are increasing in demand in a WEF report.

In Singapore, robotics is part of Singapore’s smart nation initiative. As of August 2020, Singapore has 488 robots per 10,000 compared to the international average of 74, and is expected to double by 2021.

Singapore is experiencing a declining birth rate and an ageing population. Our birth rate has been gradually declining. It dropped from 1.96 in 1988 to 1.10 in 2020. Ultimately, this would lead to a labour shortage.

Robotics can help to solve issues concerning labour shortage. They have the potential to perform a wide range of tasks, from automated production lines in factories to assisted surgeries for patients.

Robots also have the added advantage of being more consistent and reliable than humans, as they aren’t prone to human errors unlike us.

For instance, let’s look at how Robots have changed the way we transact in McDonald.

It used to be when we ordered at McDonald’s, we would convey our orders to the cashier. Today, instead of a cashier, we order via a service kiosk.

There has to be someone who programmes these kiosks so that customers are able to place orders seamlessly.

Common place applications like that suggests that demand and prospects for robotics in Singapore and the world will continue to rise.

8.) Artificial intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence

According to the WEF, almost all industries, excluding the education, government and public sector, listed AI and machine learning among the top 10 emerging job roles.

There is a shortage of AI talent across many companies and industries. Advanced AI algorithms allow for faster and reliable analysis and maximise the use of data.

Also, AI can help companies better understand consumers and future trends allowing them to remain competitive.

Previously, many businesses used AI to boost sales. However, due to Covid-19, consumer behaviour has changed. Thanks to AI, adjustments made to the algorithms, accurately predicted consumer behaviour.

According to an Accenture report, AI will benefit business services, finance, and the manufacturing sector the most. By 2035, AI can add up to US $315 billion in gross value added in Singapore.

Moreover, AI could increase Singapore’s annual economic growth rate from 3.2 percent to 5.4 percent by 2035 and boost labour productivity by up to 41 percent by changing the future of work.

It is no surprise that AI remains one of the highest in-demand jobs in Singapore.

9.) Internet of things (IOT)

Internet of things

IoT refers to the communication and interaction between various devices to observe, understand, and act on situations without the intervention of humans.

Some well-known examples of IoT include Apple watch, Smart refrigerators and Google home.

IoT can help automate some of our everyday tasks. One example is turning on the air-conditioner when it detects that the user is reaching home, through the phone’s location.

More importantly, it can be used in conjunction with AI.

The difference between AI and IOT is, to put it simply, AI requires a huge amount of data to become effective, while IoT allows for the gathering of data across many different devices.

IoT plays a huge role in Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative such as the Singapore’s Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP), which connects sensors from various agencies allowing them to collect and analyse sensor data.

The IoT market in Singapore is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 14.78% from 2019 to 2024, as there is more demand for home automation and connected vehicles. The number of IoT subscribers in Singapore is also expected to hit 969,000 in 2024 from 855,000 in 2019.

With the adoption of 5G, various network operators in Singapore such as M1 are also looking at the various possibilities and applications of IoT.

However, with so many devices being connected, it makes it more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. If one device is compromised, other connected devices become vulnerable. As a result, Singapore is trying to implement cybersecurity labels for these new devices.

10.) Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity

According to IMDA, the cybersecurity market in Singapore is expected to grow 20% in 2022 to 1.1 billion USD. From there, it is expected to grow at 10% to 13% for the next 8 years till it reaches 2.4 billion USD in 2030.

With so many businesses and organizations shifting online, it is only natural that they become more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

For instance, a 2020 Global Threat Intelligence Report by technology services firm NTT reported that 29% of attacks in Singapore had targeted the education sector in 2019.

Hackers have found that the education sector is more vulnerable compared to other industries due to the fewer security protocols they adopt.

This could be explained by the rise of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin that has seen hackers hack available computing resources, like in the education sector, to mine cryptocurrencies for profit.

Risks of theft of Consumers’ data and personal information are a threat since so many businesses and organizations are going virtual.

For instance, recently, a hack on Facebook caused a leak in 533 million people’s data online.

Cybersecurity concerns like these are why the World Economic Forum ranks information security analysts in the top 10 jobs surging in demand.

11.) Healthcare

Healthcare

Have you realised the importance of and dependence on doctors and nurses during the pandemic? Well, our government did and they showed their appreciation of nurses by giving them a 1 month special bonus earlier this year.

Meanwhile, nurses and doctors in other countries went on strike. Some demanded higher pay and others demanded that personal protective equipment (PPE) be provided. This pandemic showed us why nurses and doctors are so important.

Even if pandemic didn’t happen, jobs in the healthcare sector will increase in demand in the years to come.

The healthcare market in Singapore is projected to grow to $68.7 billion in 2029 from $29.8 billion in 2020, and spending is expected to almost triple to $50 billion by 2029.

This is because of our aging population.

The dependency ratio compares the number of residents aged 65 and above, to the working-age population, aged 15 to 64.

If we look at the dependency ratio in Singapore, we see that 2020’s (21.6) dependency ratio is almost double that of 2011’s (12.6).

This means that there will be a smaller working population in Singapore to support an aging population. Therefore, Singapore would require more healthcare professionals.

12.) Genetics

Genetics

The life science and biotech industry has been at the centre of attention during this entire pandemic, with the entire world constantly asking when a vaccine will be available.

Geneticists played a crucial role during this pandemic, as the DNA of the virus had to be studied to develop a vaccine.

Crispr is also an up and coming technology used to edit genes. This technology also potentially allows us to eliminate genetic disorders, such as diabetes or even cancer.

Crispr can also potentially solve some food shortage problems. The genetics of certain foods like soy and wheat can be modified to produce higher yields.

The Crispr market is expected to reach 5.3 billion by 2025 and has a compounded annual growth rate of 20.19%.

In the healthcare industry, biologists and geneticists are ranked 7th among the emerging job roles according to WEF.

13.) Empathy

A heart shaped by hands

Moving on to soft skills, empathy becomes increasingly important for the future of work. With a large part of the world moving online, and automation taking place, it is important to not lose the human touch.

Empathy, according to entrepreneur Joey Pomerenke, is defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions; and the ability to share someone else’s feelings.”

It allows us to understand our roles from the point of view of stakeholders. For instance, as an employer, putting ourselves in our employees’ shoes can help to improve productivity or assist with conflict management.

Famous shark tank star and entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, agrees.

“We are in a different era now, and if an organization doesn’t treat its employees with empathy, and doesn’t recognize the differences and nuances in people’s backgrounds, then those people are going to want to get out of there as quickly as possible.” He said during the 2020 Inc. 5000 Vision Conference.

And in a 2016 study that measured companies using an empathy index. The study found that companies with a higher empathy index tend to perform better.

An article by The Straits Times last year also emphasized how empathy has allowed our country to deal with the coronavirus.

For instance, empathy had led to the innovation of mask dispensing vending machines, the creation of a small hotline for Bangladeshi workers to help with queries or issues, the donation of funds to families with lost income to afford their groceries.

Too many times we get angry at others for not understanding our point of view. That can lead to a bad mood, burned bridges or even violence. These are things that slow the process of achieving our goals.

If we use empathy to our advantage, we’re more likely to find a win-win solution for all parties involved.

And to do that, we must always remember, whether at school or at work, to never dehumanise people. Always seek to understand and humanise them.    

14.) Critical thinking and creativity

Critical thinking

The future of work is going to be largely automated. Menial tasks will be taken up by robots while higher-value jobs are given to employees.

Naturally, these jobs come with problems that can’t be solved with Machines.

The ability to properly evaluate and analyse problems, create innovative solutions, and adapt to situations are the new currencies in today’s marketplace.

WEF ranked critical thinking and creativity as the 4th and 5th most relevant skill in demand for 2025 respectively.

Let’s look at an instance of critical thinking and creativity in action.

During the pandemic, industries like airlines, hospitality, and tourism encountered devastating losses. Although Singapore has tried to support these industries, many are still suffering today.

Being able to think creatively and critically can help businesses survive and even thrive in these trying times.

For example, when SIA had to ground their planes amidst the pandemic, they innovated and turned their planes into restaurants.

By allowing people to dine in their grounded airplanes, they managed to mitigate some of their losses.

15.) The freelance revolution

Freelance revolution

The freelance economy has always been popular and the pandemic just accelerated the adoption of freelancers among various businesses.

Businesses were forced to work remotely and millions lost their jobs. In Singapore, the overall unemployment rate was highest at 3.6% in October 2020 (or 115,400 residents).

However, Remote working has instilled more confidence in businesses to engage freelancers.

According to an Upwork report, a platform for freelancers, “There has been a significant increase in the demand for hiring remote freelancers. As businesses become comfortable working remotely, they are also overcoming one of the potential concerns of working with remote freelancer platforms.”

Whereas millions of people who lost their jobs went on to become freelancers. According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the number of freelancers increased from 200,000 in 2016 to 211,000 in 2019.

Similarly, in an Upwork independent workforce report of 2020, 36% of the total workforce in America (about 59 million) freelanced full-time. That’s an 8% increase from 2019.

As the current landscape is always evolving, upskilling is constantly needed. As a result, this makes it difficult to retain top talent as the skill gap widens.

The prospect of hiring freelancers then becomes an extremely attractive alternative because it is convenient and fast.

Surprisingly, freelancers also experience higher salary with 75% of freelancers who left a traditional job reporting that they had experienced an increase in income.

The Singapore government has recognised the value of freelancers in the economy and implemented programmes such as the pilot CAYE scheme and training support programmes to support them.

Going forward we can expect more people to remain in freelancing roles full-time and even more to join the freelancing scene.

Conclusion

To end off this article, we think this might be the most important trait for fresh graduates or youths in general to possess.

And that is to cultivate a lifelong learning mindset.

As the saying goes “change is the only constant”. The world is constantly changing and what may be relevant or popular, might not be in demand 10 or 20 years from now.

We must continue to stay relevant in an ever changing society by learning new skills and constantly upgrading ourselves! Only by doing so, can we be prepared for the uncertain future of work.