Why Ireland and Singapore are struggling with hiring demands

6 min read

Hiring challenges in Ireland and Singapore result from three main obstacles: war for talent, skills shortage and cost of living.

Ireland and Singapore have a lot more in common than you might think. Both markets experienced significant economic growth that came along with numerous opportunities and… challenges. Ireland and Singapore are currently known as ‘innovation islands’ - global tech hubs that attract some of the world’s brightest tech talent and world-class entrepreneurs. This is possible via the ecosystems that support the development of multinational corporations and small to medium enterprises.

Ireland and Singapore are both in good proximity to international markets. Singapore has strong relationships with Asian markets and Ireland with those based in Europe. While Brexit means more and more multinationals choose Ireland over the UK as locations for their business, the tensions between the US and China is what leads companies to choose Singapore.

Interestingly, both countries are growing in the space of technology and finance, quickly becoming centres for fintech research and innovation. However, there are other sectors that bring Ireland and Singapore together, such as aviation, green technology, engineering and others.

It’s no wonder that the two markets have also some common challenges, especially in the area of hiring talent. Their talent pools are drying out quickly as more and more multinationals and indigenous SMEs are competing for the same professionals.


What are the top 3 challenges that both Ireland and Singapore face and what can these two markets learn from each other?


1. War for talent

In Singapore, the HR professionals have to deal with the challenge of maintaining the quality of the IT hire while remaining within the correct Ministry of Manpower (MoM) guidelines with regards to quotas of foreign talent versus local Singaporean talent. The MoM guidelines are extremely strict with the expected ratio of home-grown to international talent being around 60%.

In Ireland on the other hand, the battle continues to attract international talent to the country with 60% of organisations admitting that they expect to have to recruit internationally to fill their Irish-based roles this year.

In both cases the result is the same: an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees.


In their book The War for Talent, Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod suggest that the best way to win the war for talent is through “embracing a talent mindset”.


The War for Talent


Source: Excerpt from The War for Talent, (c) 2001 McKinsey & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. (Published by Harvard Business School Press.)


2. Skills shortage

Singapore today is home to 5.4 million inhabitants (a quarter of all residents are foreigners) and the country experiences virtually full employment with less than 2% unemployment.

The current Irish population is about to reach 4.8 million and the unemployment rate continues to decrease with it currently standing at 5.6%.

In both markets, the intense battle for talent seems to be approaching its peak. The standard recruitment methods are slowly becoming less and less effective as the top candidates are contacted by recruiters on a regular basis for numerous different opportunities. 

As a result, advertised roles are not applied to by candidates as often as a couple of years ago. What’s more, the applications that do apply often:

  • expect higher pay than companies can offer, 
  • lack some of the hard and/or soft skills required, 
  • have the skills but no relevant work experience.



Upskilling your current employees in the areas that are most difficult to hire for is the best solution. There are several ways you can do this, such as online training sessions, internal workshops  (colleague to colleague), or education reimbursements. At the same time, consider investing in innovative hiring strategies that haven’t been used on a wider scale before such as gamification, the use of gaming platforms as sourcing channels and/or social media that is not typically used for recruitment, among others. 


3. Costs of living

According to a report by real estate firm CBRE, Singapore ranks as the second-most expensive city in the world to buy a house. There are over 7,000 multinational companies based in the city and expat workers are considered essential to developing Singapore. This refers especially to IT and Finance, but also to other sectors such as oil and gas. However, the costs of housing, schooling and transportation could discourage expats from moving or staying in the city long-term.

Similarly, Dublin recently became the third most expensive city in the Eurozone to live in (after Paris and Milan). As a consequence, talented professionals are being priced out of Dublin, especially considering that there are increasing opportunities for them outside of the city.


A tactic called employer-assisted housing has proven effective in terms of attracting employees who resist relocation due to the costs of living. Another way for employers to deal with this challenge is to offer flexible working solutions which would allow employees to work during their commute or to work from home. However, none of these address the root cause of the challenge, as employers are dealing with a symptom rather than a bigger issue.


Could recruitment outsourcing be a solution?

There are several different outsourcing models available, some of which are built specifically to address the issue of talent and skills shortages. Many total talent solutions are flexible, which means that the in-house TA or HR teams are supplemented and/or supported by the external company when needed and in the capacity that’s required.

Here is a practical example of how RPO can help to recruit top talent over a short period of time in areas where skill-sets are scarce or only now emerging.


If you would like to discuss different strategies to overcome hiring challenges that your company is facing, please get in touch with us to arrange an informal chat with one of our experts.


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