Manpower top concern for S'pore IT firms

Local IT companies list workforce-related issues as high business concerns, with one-third acknowledging that this challenge has worsened this year, finds new survey.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Manpower issues will continue to cloud this year's business environment for Singapore IT organizations which are calling for the local government to initiate schemes to address the challenge, according to a new survey.

Released by the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SITF) Wednesday, the survey of 126 local IT companies found that manpower issues will remain key challenges for these businesses in 2011. Multinational corporations (MNCs) comprised 29 percent of the respondents while the rest were local infocomm enterprises.

The study listed workforce-related issues as the top three business concerns, where manpower cost as well as the ability to recruit the right talent both ranked as the top concern, at 86 percent. Some 73 percent of respondents pointed to the ability to retain talent as the other business concern.

According to the report, the most difficult job vacancies to fill were solutioning and architecturing, sales and marketing, project management, CIOs, CTOs and IT managers, software development and research and development.

A third of the respondents felt that the manpower situation had worsened compared to last year. Anecdotal feedback pointed to the tightening of the supply of foreign talent as one of the compounding issues, reported SITF.

In addition, manpower worries extended beyond talent recruitment. According to the survey, 59 percent of respondents highlighted the lack of local talent and high cost of labor as barriers to productivity.

SITF Chairman Tan Yen Yen said the survey is part of the industry group's efforts to keep track of business sentiments as well as engage in dialogues with government agencies to address issues and concerns faced by the local IT industry.

Aside from tracking the performance and outlook of local companies, the survey also asked respondents what they would like to see in the upcoming Singapore Budget 2011. The IT companies, especially local enterprises, expressed hope of seeing government schemes that address the issue of talent shortage and attract more students into the IT sector.

More Singapore companies to extend overseas
On a brighter note, the report unveiled that more Singapore companies were looking to extend their market overseas. Some 87 percent said they were likely to continue or increase their efforts in developing overseas markets, which SITF noted was a "significant increase" compared with 71 percent last year,

Many respondents also ranked government support for market creation and development high on the wish list for Budget 2011, the report said, adding that local businesses expressed hope that this year's national budget will foster an environment conducive to internationalization.

The study also found that local ICT companies continued to recover from the 2008-2009 economic downturn. In fact, 73 percent of the respondents achieved positive business growth last year compared with 61 percent in 2009.

However, SITF noted that profit growth still lagged behind top-line performance and was dragged down by an increase in underlying costs such as the cost of manpower.

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