The latest sentiment from members - British businesses signal their continued confidence in Singapore but raise concerns over the current business climate, specifically talent and increasing costs

Source: Press release

In the British Chamber of Commerce’s latest business sentiment results, released today, British businesses have signalled their continued confidence in Singapore but raised concerns over the current business climate, specifically talent and increasing costs in the market.

Remaining positive for the future, with over three-quarters of businesses confirming their confidence in Singapore as a business hub for the long-term, satisfaction in today’s business climate was split with a near 50-50 result. Despite a challenging period for hiring, retaining staff and balancing budgets, companies reported several positives. Interest in ASEAN remains a priority for the majority of members and the aggregated average proportion of Singaporean citizens and permanent residents among the respondents is 68%. There is strong awareness of the incoming Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) for employment passes (over 70%), with 54% of respondents agreeing with the aim that it will help to ensure a high quality and diverse foreign workforce which complements the local workforce.

Mirroring the Singapore Business Federation’s National Business Survey results earlier this year, availability and retention of manpower appear in the top three concerns, alongside increasing costs to businesses. In talent, 85% of members have been actively recruiting in the past six members, yet salary expectations, the competitive market for local talent and a perceived lack of requisite technical skills and expertise has increased the difficulty of finding the right talent. Members shared their observations of skills gaps in critical thinking, business acumen and technical skills at an industry level.

On retaining talent, similar issues of salary expectations rank high in concern and were the top reason for employees leaving respondents’ companies this year, with talent appearing as the top cost challenge in the current business environment. Younger generations of employees, particularly those in the millennial and Gen Z generations, are proving to be a challenge to retain. It is important to note that these issues are not unique to foreign-owned businesses, particularly cost and talent pool challenges, as seen in the SBF National Business Survey.

In each sentiment survey, BritCham reviews key benchmark questions on business growth. In this latest edition, each of the benchmarks around sales, advance orders, cashflow and investment plans showed a small balance contraction (i.e. the percentage of firms that reported an increase minus the percentage that reported a decrease).

David Kelly, executive director at the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore commented:

“Our bi-annual sentiment survey always provides us with a snapshot of the business outlook and allows us to build upon the regular feedback that we receive as a Chamber throughout the year. With around 80% of companies reaffirming their confidence in Singapore as a business hub, we will continue to support businesses who are looking to expand into Singapore and across the ASEAN region.

With hiring and retaining talent remaining as two of the top three challenges for businesses, we will continue to work with our member companies to maintain a dialogue and share best-practice from across our network on the topic of talent.”

The Business Sentiment & Workforce Survey ran from the period 15th-29th August and represents the breadth of our membership across smaller and medium sized businesses in multiple industries within Singapore.

See the results in full