Underpaid, Long Hours and Thankless Job: Singapore’s Security Sector Faces Talent Shortage

January 12, 20171:31 pm1577 views

The private security industry in Singapore is plagued by manpower shortage, and the news has been garnering spotlight especially after two auxiliary police forces were planning return to Taiwan to fill their vacancies.

With Auxiliary Police Officers (APOs) being trained in wide areas such as handling weapons, protecting from key installations of non-governmental premises such as commercial banks, and supporting police deployment at major events such as the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix, APOs are entrusted with powers to protect the property, search and arrest offenders when on duty, and escort persons in custody.

According to Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, there are about 7,000 APOs, with more than half being Singaporeans. Private security firm Certis CISCO is the biggest auxiliary police force (APF) in Singapore with a 3,500 strong team, followed by AETOS and SATS Security Services.

Since 2011, APFs have managed to expand their pool of Singaporean APOs by only 250, thus falling short of demand for APOs projected to exceed 600 over the next few years. Considering the difficulties in recruiting qualified Malaysians and attracting locals Certis CISCO and AETOS have recently said they are looking to Taiwan to fill their vacancies.

“Youngsters cannot stand the long hours. They need enjoyment, but this job leaves you with no time or energy for that. I know some parents support these youngsters to quit and will help to pay the penalty for breaking the bond,” said an APF.

A spokesman for AETOS, which currently has around 2,600 APOs, told Channel News Asia that locals are largely put off by the nature of the job, which can be “both physically and mentally strenuous” while having to endure “tough working conditions” such as harsh weather and the need to work shifts. Younger Singaporeans, who “tend to have a different job outlook and job expectations”, have found it hard to accept these requirements.

The tight labour market is not just restricted to the APFs. The unarmed sector that accounts for the biggest number of workers in the local security industry have made jobs unattractive for the security by offering stagnant low wages and long working hours.

Last September, the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the security sector came into effect to raise the pay, ensure workers well-being, skills and career progression in line with the industry demands. According to the recently released PWM, the minimum basic wage of a security officer is S$1,100 and as they grow in their careers, the officer’s wage will increase as well to eventually command a salary of more than S$1,700 as a chief security officer.

As of last month, the majority of Singapore’s 250 security agencies are in compliance with the PWM’s requirements. While the problems of long working hours, overtime and low wages continues to still remain, the recruiters are more cautious and thinking twice about the expenses, in preparation for leaner months that come with  with an additional headcount or a part-timer should the man hours for each security officer be reduced. Some clients on the other hand are reluctant to accept an alternative arrangement to the 12-hour shift.

With the labour shortage likely to persist, several private security firms have tapped technology to help ease the workload of existing workers and boost productivity.

At Certis CISCO’s 24-hour integrated operations centre, traditional methods of surveillance such as having officers scrutinising CCTV screens have since been replaced by modern CCTV systems equipped with video content analytics (VCA) technology. The VCA technology can identify loitering behaviour or detect the action of people prying open a shopping centre’s glass doors for instance, Tristan Sim who heads the operations centre told Channel News Asia.


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