HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore

Asia’s resilience drives salary growth in Singapore

Singapore’s workforce can expect an average salary increase of between three and six per cent this year. That’s one key finding from our 2012 Hays Salary Guide, out this month.

We found that 44 per cent of employers in Singapore increased salaries last year between three and six per cent. A further 21 per cent gave an increase above six per cent. But 28 per cent gave increases of less than three percent, while the final seven per cent gave no increase at all.

Looking ahead, 50 per cent of employers in Singapore intend to increase salaries between three and six per cent when they next review. A further 23 per cent will increase above six per cent. But 22 per cent of employers intend to increase salaries less than three per cent and five per cent intend to offer no increases when they next review.

According to our survey of employers, in the next 12 months 64 per cent of employers expect business activity to increase and 41 per cent expect their permanent staff levels to increase. But skills shortages will remain an ongoing issue. Almost all employers across Asia who were surveyed (95 per cent) believe that skills shortages have the potential to hamper the effective operation of their business or department.

Furthermore, in skill-short areas 66 per cent of employers said they would consider employing or sponsoring a qualified overseas candidate. Singapore in particular is casting the net wide when a suitable local applicant cannot be located, although there has been a strong reduction in expatriate packages. Those that were on expatriate packages have been converted to local packages and benefits such as housing and living allowance have been incorporated into the base salary.

We found that 54 per cent of employers intend to award a bonus to more than 50 per cent of staff, down 10 per cent year-on-year. Instead, the use of benefits is rising. They are now offered by 81 per cent of employers, up from 78 per cent year-on-year. Health, life assurance, pension and car or car allowance are popular benefits.

Other trends for Singapore by sector are as follows:

Accountancy & Finance:
Cost, regulatory, product control and corporate governance expertise will remain in greatest demand, although we also expect to see career opportunities in all areas for talented professionals since Singapore’s market is fundamentally strong.

Both local and MNC consultancies seek commercial and LTA experienced Architects and salaries for these candidates have risen. Hands-on Architects with a portfolio of local and regional projects and candidates with MRT experience are also needed.  

Corporate finance has experienced an increase in deals, creating opportunities for those candidates with a corporate finance or M&A background.

Engineering & Construction:
Construction is an active market and the mass rapid transport expansion as well as environmental and water projects have fuelled tremendous engineering jobs growth. Estimators, Project Directors, Project Managers, WSHO’s, Design Engineers/Managers and infrastructure, rail and tunnelling professionals are all needed. 

Finance Technology:
The project and program space continues to see demand for candidates with consulting or professional service backgrounds as banks reduce spend by bringing resources in-house. There is also a need for business experienced Project Managers, skills in C++, C# and Java in the development space. Demand for infrastructure-related skills remains constant.

Human Resources:
Newly created roles are increasing and there is a shortage of good business partners, although this has not affected salaries. We are experiencing demand within the talent acquisition space and salaries have increased. The commerce and industry sector will continue to grow this year, and salaries will increase given the candidate-driven nature of the market.

Information Technology:
Project budgets have increased and companies have started to again pay good bonuses. Candidates who focus on building a long-term career in Singapore are being rewarded with high salaries over a long period of time. Hiring is increasing in infrastructure and demand remains high for cloud computing specialists. We expect to see new roles in the IT development space.

As firms strengthen their footing throughout Asia Pacific, demand remains for core business critical roles such as underwriting, particularly at the regional, senior or management level. Project management, operations, process re-engineering, product development and actuarial candidates are also needed to help with operational changes. Salaries remain stable.

A number of foreign law firms are expanding and moving into Singapore. They prefer to recruit local qualified candidates due to their familiarity with the regulatory environment and context. Demand for international arbitration, funds, private wealth management and corporate finance candidates remains high. Salaries are moving upwards in candidate short areas.

Life Sciences:
Job vacancies are rising across market access, pricing and reimbursement and health economics. These are relatively new skills in Asia and salaries remain competitive to entice specialists from the US and Europe. Overall, continued investment will ensure a high number of job vacancies in 2012.
Office Professionals: 

Global companies expanding into Singapore need experienced Office Managers and EAs with local knowledge. Legal Secretaries are in demand in law firms that are opening or expanding. Financial services and commerce and industry employers are using contractors and temporaries. Salaries have stayed the same with a slight increase for junior roles.

Oil & Gas:
The predicted global oil and gas boom is creating a shortage of candidates as companies compete globally for the best talent. Salaries continue to increase for subsea engineering and project controls candidates as well as senior executives and engineers with 20 or more years of experience in South East Asia. Permanent salaries have returned to pre-recession levels.

Green mark certified Project Managers and Engineers are in demand but the shortage of candidates has led to higher salary offers. As projects are awarded, facilities management and leasing candidates are sought. The increase in new commercial and residential buildings means property management and leasing specialists are needed.

Sales & Marketing:
In the early months of this year we expect budgets to remain tight. But since sales and marketing remains a key priority for organisations, continual hiring across industries will be seen. Given the ongoing shortage of strong talent, high-performers with regional experience and a strong Asia Pacific network are in high demand.

Supply Chain:
Employers in the pharmaceutical, aerospace, oil and gas and chemicals industries continue to expand and need candidates with relevant skills and experience. While specialised skill sets command a premium salary package, employers are mindful of escalating business costs and so they continue to offer competitive local packages.

The 2012 Hays Salary Guide reveals salary and recruiting trends for 1,100 roles across Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Japan and was based on a survey of over 900 employers as well as placements made by Hays.

Access the 2012 Hays Salary Guide at, by contacting your local Hays office or by downloading The Hays Salary Guide 2012 iPhone app from iTunes.  

Chris Mead,  Regional Director of Hays in South East Asia 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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