Singapore Procurement market reviews and 2021 outlook

Posted on January 28 , 2021. 
By Ben McDonald

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In my 15 years recruiting in the Procurement space, I have always found this market to be more resilient than other functions in an economic downturn. While almost every sector was hampered by COVID-19 during 2020, the Procurement jobs market was indeed impacted, but comparatively fared better overall than the general employment market.

I put this down to the nature of the function, as well as the fact that Procurement exists across a wide range of industries, some of which were less affected by the pandemic than others. Certain industries remained robust, with some even experiencing growth, particularly those that fell into essential product and service categories.

For some perspective, it is reported that general recruitment firms saw on average a 40% year-on-year downturn in mandates engaged earlier in 2020. In slight contrast in Procurement, here at Connexus Global, our engagement rates were steady in Q1, and we saw a decrease of 30% in Q2 and 20% inQ3. It should also be noted we saw a 50% increase in Procurement candidate job applications from March onward throughout the year.

In Q4 2020, market sentiment and the general outlook changed significantly to what I would describe as, overall positive for certain industries. Within Procurement, our recruitment engagement levels are currently exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels. Our mandate completions in Q4 were up 40% year on year, with many mandates that were withdrawn or put-on hold earlier in the year coming back online and completing with candidates starting new roles in January.

In 2020, Connexus Global’s most active industry practices included Food, Beverage & Nutrition (including food commodities) and Consumer Products. We saw the biggest reductions in engagements in Automotive, Aerospace, Hospitality, Construction and Oil & Gas.

January 2021: The present picture of the Singapore Procurement job market

  • Singapore’s world renowned and positive reputation as a strategic business location has been amplified by the pandemic, particularly in Supply Chain and Procurement, which bodes well for the function in general, and for the likelihood of positioning senior Procurement leadership roles in Singapore in the future.
  • The first full week of January saw a significant number of Procurement jobs coming on to the general market. There are some trends in terms of industries hiring, with Chemicals, Hi-Tech and Biotech featuring highly.
  • Last year’s January prediction of a significant increase in technology transformation-related Procurement positions has not fully materialised. The current demand trends point towards categories that are trading strongly during the pandemic.
  • The technology agenda is still very much a major priority, but from an imminent hiring perspective, other imminent and reactive priorities seem to have taken precedence, for now at least.
  • The present landscape of the largest Procurement employers in Singapore continues to change, with previously large-scale MNC Procurement functions (such as HP, Shell, P&G, and Rio Tinto) being replaced by more domestic-focused public and private organisations (such as DSTA, ALPS and ST Engineering).
  • The view of Singapore as a fully centralised Procurement hub has changed somewhat, with many companies now taking a regionally centre-led approach and structuring accordingly in the region based on the needs of the business.
  • Companies are increasingly flexible in the location in which they hire key regional roles. Businesses such as Connexus Global now run single job searches that span multiple key locations, with quality of hire primarily determining where the role is based. Employment cost is generally a close second criteria.
  • The decline of graduates or ‘entry level’ Procurement positions has unfortunately continued, pointing towards future skill shortages. Those graduates coming into the Procurement function are more frequently coming from a Business Administration or specialist Supply Chain academic background, whereas traditionally they have largely come from Engineering backgrounds.

2021 Predictions for the Singapore Procurement job market

  • There is positive hiring sentiment from employers for Procurement roles throughout 2021, particularly towards the end of the year with planning and sign off taking place from now.
  • There is presently a lot of what I would describe as pent-up hiring activity. In 2020, there were many companies that did not hire the roles they planned to, but equally, there are a lot of professionals that planned to move roles but took a cautious view and chose to remain with their employer.
  • Returning market confidence, combined with a continued or renewed focus on transformations, and restructures resulting from the pandemic, will serve as compounding factors positively impacting activity in the Singapore Procurement job market.
  • There is very specific demand for senior professionals with Contract Manufacturing expertise. This is driven by companies seeking to quickly broaden their product offering or a general strengthening and diversifying of the overall supply base and supply chain.
  • There is also demand for talent with strong supplier relationship management experience in industries that have been adversely affected by the pandemic or with businesses seeking to diversify their supply base.
  • Demand also exists for talent with skills in services procurement, an area that has seen greater opportunities from the pandemic.
  • Towards the end of the year, I would expect an easing of the current resistance towards employing candidates with Employment Passes,which is a change on last year’s sentiment.
  • Connexus Global clients that are showing the strongest hiring intent for 2021 are in the following industries: Semiconductors and Hi-Tech, Chemicals and Food, and Beverage & Nutrition.

The above comments are all observations from the ride that was 2020!

The Connexus team has had to adapt like everyone and maintain a positive approach, particularly when many of our valued clients and candidates faced such uncertain and unique personal and professional challenges.

Our outlook is based on feedback from our clients, who are typically senior executives from multinational companies that need the best leadership talent for their Procurement and Supply Chain functions in Asia Pacific.

Ben McDonald


Consumer & Industrial Markets


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