2016 will see a slight pickup in the global economy as the European and American economies begin to recover. However, this is unlikely to have much positive impact in Asia. Already, Singapore’s GDP has been trimmed to 2% and growth forecasts have been reduced for other key macroeconomic indicators such as finance and insurance, as well as retail trade.
Nonetheless, amidst the volatile economic climate, there is some good news for Asia in the creation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) which takes effect on 31 Dec 2015. Whilst the impact of the AEC is unlikely to materialise until much later into the future, the creation of the community is a positive sign as it allows the entire Asean region to be converted into a single marketplace, removing any trade barriers across countries. This could potentially lead to increased cross border activity and hence more hiring across companies in the Asean region in the long run.
Across all industries and sectors, salary increments in Asia are expected to be much lower. Especially in the more developed Asian markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, salaries of senior executives are expected to stagnate due to the slowing market conditions. The situation is slightly more optimistic in the emerging markets such as Vietnam and Indonesia, which will observe continued wage growth. Salary increases in Malaysia are forecasted at 5.8% in 2016.However, as the average inflation rate in 2016 is predicted to reach 3.4%, real wage increment will be further depressed and is likely to remain minimal.
The following is a general forecast of the hiring trends in our specialised verticals based on insights gathered by the consultants at Space Executive.
Strategy and Corporate Development
The management consulting and strategy sphere is likely to see a continued demand for top, experienced professionals despite the gloomy economic outlook. Consulting firms based in South East Asia are beginning to gain popularity in industries such as financial services, banking, and oil and gas. Companies continue to face a shortage of talents in this area as candidates take a cautious approach towards job offers. The more traditional consulting companies are also facing the pressure of competition from the “sexier” e-commerce firms which are luring talented individuals away from pure consulting roles to more integrated and varied strategy functions. Management consultants remain in demand for their analytical skills and strong work ethic.
Despite the sustained demand for talented consultants, the possibility of salary increments across all levels is not optimistic. Increments are more attainable for candidates considering a promotion in position rather than for those making lateral shifts within the industry.
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The finance industry has continually evolved since the global financial crisis. The banking and finance sector appears uncertain and turbulent after major announcements by global banks to purge headcount towards the end of 2015. As major banks begin to offshore their middle and back office teams to countries such as India and China, more contractual and short term roles are expected to be in demand in its regional head offices to facilitate the process.
Multinational companies (MNCs) across industries continue to choose Singapore and Hong Kong as regional offices in Asia. In light of the growing popularity of MNCs establishing shared service centres, there is a greater demand for accounting and finance professionals with commercial aptitude.
As regulatory authorities across the region strengthen their hold on the implementation of regulatory policies, candidates with specialised skill sets of risk management, compliance and internal audit will remain in high demand. Additionally, senior candidates in corporate finance as well as financial planning and analysis will continue to be sought after.
As it continues to remain an employer’s market, the outlook for salary increments for the industry is pessimistic with increments to a maximum of 2%.
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The technology sector looks the most optimistic this 2016 with its employees being in greatest demand amongst the other sectors. According to Towers Watson, wages for technology professionals in countries such as Pakistan, India and Vietnam are set to increase about 11% . However, inflation rates in these markets are likely to depress these positive figures.
In the more developed Asian markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore, it is predicted that salary increments are less optimistic and are likely to remain stagnant due to the increase in outsourcing to IT vendors and off-shoring into the cheaper less developed markets such as the Philippines, India and Poland.
The momentum of investment and innovation into big data, cloud and the Internet of Things is poised to continue into 2016 with spending expected to reach $3 trillion by 2020. As such, technology specialists in next generation platforms and services are expected to be in demand as new applications continue to enter the market. On the other hand, employees working in legacy vendor companies should expect to face more uncertainty. The recent split in Hewlett Packard as well as IBM selling its server business signal changes to the traditional business models once trusted and relied upon in the technology business.
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The Human Resources (HR) sector is predicted to remain similar to that in 2015, with MNCs seeking more senior and commercial HR business partners who are be able to work closely with senior management, offering strategic advice and making sure HR supports the company’s business strategy. Senior local candidates with international exposure are likely to be more sought after, especially in the finance as well as pharmaceutical industries.
The specialist areas of talent management as well as compensation and benefits will see an increased demand as companies invest in employee engagement and retention strategies. Employee engagement has grown increasingly complex with the advent of social media as well as a general shift in attitude towards employee loyalty especially for the millenials. Compensation and benefits specialists have been and will continue to be in shortage in 2016 as companies strive to refine their remuneration packages to retain employees.
Overall, HR professionals could expect a two to five percent increase in salary in most industries with the exception of the banking and finance industry due to the recent headcount cut across various major banks.
For more market information, contact Lucy Allard, Associate Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marketing and Retail
Over the past two years, more international retail brands have entered the Asian market, resulting in the increased hiring of retail professionals across the market. This trend is expected to persist in 2016. Another emerging trend in Asia is the regional recruitment of executive level sales and marketing professionals to the less developed markets such as Vietnam and Cambodia.
Senior management with a good understanding of market dynamics in luxury retail are expected to be in high demand as the retail business model evolves. As companies shift their focus to improve their online retail strategy, technology professionals highly skilled in digital and social media marketing have become highly sought after. Specific skill sets such as content creation, search engine optimisation and analytics remain the top of the list on an employer’s search criteria as companies build up their in-house digital teams. The ability to understand and adapt the retail strategy across various platforms (e.g. mobile optimisation) is highly valued by the retail sector. The lack of supply of specialists in this sector is likely to result in an increase in salaries for these professionals.
For more market information, contact Sarah Yong, Associate Director, at email@example.com.
 Average figures taken from https://www.towerswatson.com/en/Press/2015/10/Rising-Inflation-Set-to-Trim-2016-Salary-Raises-in-Asia-Pacific (Pakistan - 12%; India 10.7% and Vietname 10.6%)