If you are an atheist tech worker who still has a job, perhaps now is the time to start believing in a divine being that has been looking out for your rice bowl.
Even before Twitter and Meta annihilated close to 15,000 jobs worldwide, layoffs in the tech industry have been happening in dribs and drabs. From Netflix to Microsoft, many have since laid off thousands of staff in the face of uncertain economic conditions.
In a globalised and interconnected world, there is no escape from these tech cuts, no matter how resilient an economy might seem.
Within Singapore, at least 50 employees are affected by the Meta job cuts. Meanwhile, e-commerce giant Shopee just announced its third round of layoffs this year, which shocked many employees as they had expected the worse to be over.
Is this nature taking its course, correcting the misguided exploits of big tech firms? Or can this be the prelude to something more sinister, say, a global economic meltdown?
The tech giants bleeding jobs
During the pandemic, tech companies saw a massive boost in their traffic and revenue as everyone was forced to hunker down in their homes.
How did it all come crashing down in such a spectacular manner?
Firstly, some of the biggest companies — such as YouTube, Meta and Instagram — are already struggling to stay relevant in the face of Chinese rival TikTok.
The pandemic to them was a godsend. Not only did it delay their decline, but it also resulted in an unexpected boom.
Secondly, the pandemic had created a once-in-a-lifetime condition for exponential growth, encouraging tech firms to hire and expand more than they should have.
Lulled into a false sense of reality, firms like Meta started staffing their offices as though it was in a metaverse with no real-world consequences.
According to Zaven Nahapetyan, a former Meta employee and co-founder of the social content platform Niche, “They (Meta) grew so quickly and were so lavish with perks. There are so many teams that did not need to be there and so many products that no one knows about.”
Sadly, the unhinged growth was unusual and unsustainable. And now that the bubble has burst, major tech companies have no choice but to downsize.
This sentiment is clearly reflected in the layoffs at Meta’s Singapore office. With hiring freezes in place, there is now less emphasis on recruiters, which explains why half the job cuts come from those who work in recruitment.
Mark Zuckerberg pretty much sums up the state of tech companies in his message to Meta employees.
Not only has online commerce returned to prior trends, but the macroeconomic downturn, increased competition, and ads signal loss have caused our revenue to be much lower than I’d expected.– Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Meta
Course correction or recession bellwether?
While the mass layoffs in the tech world could be seen as a sign of a looming recession, it is not indicative of an overall labour trend.
For a start, the calamity surrounding big tech is entirely self-inflicted. Expanding too fast, yet failing to move fast enough in a dynamic environment. Meta is probably the embodiment of this problem.
And in the case of Twitter, the platform has been unprofitable for years. Recession or not, Elon Musk would have made a similar decision to trim the fat and let go of half the staff.
As noted by Felix Salmon, tech firms are not hiring for where they are today. They hire for where they aspire to be tomorrow, and when tomorrow doesn’t come, that means layoffs.
The threat of a global recession is real, but what we are witnessing here with big tech is a case of course correction to bring their company back to equilibrium. It is simply unfortunate that they are doing it at a time when the world is in a state of flux.
Demand for tech workers still high
Getting culled from a job is probably one of the worse things to happen in the modern world. However, it doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom because there are still plenty of opportunities when we look beyond big tech firms.
Like shopaholics at a Black Friday sale, smaller firms and startups are seizing the opportunity to snatch up the talent they would otherwise have no chance of landing.
That is why despite the layoffs in major tech companies, demand for tech talent continues to outstrip supply in Asia.
Speaking to the Straits Times, labour chief Mr Ng Chee Meng also reinforces the notion that there are still plenty of tech jobs available and urged those who were laid off to explore the 400+ jobs on offer at the Infocomm Jobs and Skills Fair.
In the local space, there is a lot of aggregate demand for tech talent. With this job fair, we are trying to help match those already equipped with the skills to jobs that are available.– Mr Ng Chee Meng, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Secretary-General
Elsewhere, banking and healthcare sectors are also looking to hire tech workers to support their increasingly digitised operations.
But for now, the local IT community has since come together in a show of solidarity to help the newly retrenched find new roles.
More importantly, those who are laid off can also take comfort that, unlike their peers at AAQUA, they have a generous severance package to tide them over the months ahead.
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