Headhunters in Singapore have spotted a new trend – the rise of the opportunistic expat.
The term refers to a foreigner who arrives without a job or a relocation package in the hope of finding work in a booming economy. While there are no hard or fast figures available, recruitment firms across the city have seen a marked increase in opportunistic expats.
Mark Hall, vice-president of recruiter Kelly Services in Singapore, said: "People want to be in Singapore. They recognise that in a competitive job market, being on the ground will demonstrate their commitment. At the same time, hiring managers are becoming increasingly reluctant to consider candidates who are based outside of Singapore when a diverse and qualified talent pool already exists here.”
Stella Tang, director at Robert Half Singapore, said: “Singapore’s financial sector is still healthy so many expatriates from the UK and elsewhere are looking for employment here. We are seeing more banking and finance professionals arriving as visitors and exploring job opportunities while they are here.”
However, while opportunistic expats are on the rise, many find that it is not as easy as they thought to get a job in Singapore. Traditional expat packages are being scaled back while the government is tightening its foreign labour rules.
Hall added: “For now this trend is likely to continue because Singapore remains very attractive to many foreign professionals, particularly those from Europe where the unemployment rate has just reached a record high of 12 per cent. Singapore has also built a reputation amongst many people as a city that offers a good quality of life, a favourable tax regime as well as a range of interesting career opportunities.”
While European and US banks have been scaling back their headcounts in the region, Asian banks have been more proactive in the recruitment drives. This has sprung up opportunities for banking professionals outside their comfort zones. Singapore-based DBS is Southeast Asia’s biggest bank.
Sonia Fuller, director at headhunter KS Consulting, said: “There are also plenty of opportunities in risk-based roles such as regulation and compliance but it helps if you already have some Asian experience.”
Singapore is diversifying into biotechnology, water technology, environmental and energy science. As the government continues to provide incentives for growth in these sectors, there is likely to be demand for foreign talent with this expertise.