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Hiring Needs Evolve as Talent Squeeze Persists in Southeast Asia

December 6, 2018

Specialist professional recruitment firm Robert Walters announced today the latest release of its annual Salary Survey, sharing insights on key recruitment opportunities and challenges faced by industries. The survey, in its 20th edition, predicts an evolution of hiring needs, especially in more established Southeast Asian markets such as Singapore and Malaysia, as the region is set to maintain dynamic growth next year. As digitisation and the region’s role as an industrial hub continue to grow, professions in high demand include specialists with relevant IT skillsets, as well as those with industrial experience across various roles.

The overall outlook for the region remains positive. The survey noted that robust growth in maturing economies (Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) in Southeast Asia is expected to continue, as multinational companies and foreign direct investment continue to drive stiff competition for skilled and experienced talent. In comparison, hiring in Singapore and Malaysia will remain stable and modest, as companies seek greater productivity through the hiring of better-skilled professionals.

The ongoing digitalisation wave coupled with Southeast Asia’s growing role as an industrial hub within Asia will sustain the demand for relevant skillsets. IT specialists in the niche areas of cyber security, big data and artificial intelligence remain in high demand, as well as digital experts beyond the technology sector. Professionals with industrial experience across a range of roles, including engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, sales and marketing, finance and human resources, will be highly sought after as well.

With a global talent shortage in key sectors, companies are evolving their hiring needs too to attract suitable specialists. Local talent will continue to be in demand, while an increasing trend of businesses seeking out overseas expansion opportunities has propelled interest for “glocal” talent, or local talent with international experience. As companies step up efforts to retain their top skilled talent by investing in training, offering benefits such as flexible working arrangements and providing attractive counter-offers, hiring managers are seeking innovative solutions to draw candidates.

“There is greater urgency now for hiring managers to expand their pool of candidates and reach out to local professionals residing overseas with the necessary expertise, skill sets and international experience. Companies, particularly those in the more mature markets, are also looking to refine and optimise their recruitment processes, with more seeking outsourcing solutions,” said Toby Fowlston, Managing Director for Southeast Asia, Robert Walters.

2019 Predictions for Singapore

Riding on increased hiring activity in 2018 in key sectors, especially financial services and information technology, the hiring outlook for Singapore is likely to see stable growth. Talent with strong industry expertise and the relevant digital skills will be highly sought after. Top jobs in demand in 2019 will be analytical and data-driven in nature, such as data scientists, product management, UX designers, and digital roles.

Cybersecurity will remain a major focus, with rising concerns in the wake of recent high-profile cyberattacks within the country. As organisations advance their digital transformations, tech giants expand and enter the local market and tech start-ups grow, the demand for IT professionals will increase. Specialists with skills and experience in analytics, applications, data science, the Internet of Things and cybersecurity will be in high demand. HR professionals with strong experience in HR technologies, as well as talent acquisition professionals for the technology sector will also be of interest.

Hiring levels for jobs in financial services will remain positive, with a continued focus on technical and commercial skillsets. Demand will be high for skilled contracting professionals, trade finance professionals in corporate banking, investment and research analysts, and IT professionals in the financial services sector.

Sales and marketing professionals with big data, digital, e-commerce and transformation experience, will be in increasing demand as companies continue their digitalisation efforts. Versatile sales and marketing professionals with skill sets bridging multiple functions, as well as sales professionals with strong prospecting abilities will be in demand.

With a limited talent pool, competition will intensify for specialists such as Singaporeans qualified with international and cross-border experience and knowledge. Examples include product management, technology law and blockchain, as well as supply chain and procurement professionals with niche skillsets.  “The best candidates look for roles they can grow into. Employers who can demonstrate that they have the right teams and systems in place to support a candidate’s success in a role are better positioned to secure top talent,” said Rob Bryson, Managing Director for Singapore, Robert Walters.

Across all industries, senior-level professionals who can use their expertise to drive business objectives will be in high demand. Job movers in Singapore can expect increments of 5 -15% in 2019. Larger increments are expected for candidates with specialised skillsets in IT, digital and financial services.

Other Key Singapore Highlights for 2019

  • The accounting and finance sector will see a demand for professionals with tax compliance and change management expertise. Skillsets in demand include a strong technical understanding and familiarity of regulatory rules, stakeholder engagement and management skills as finance professionals increasingly need to stay abreast of new regulations across markets and work with the business.
  • In the engineering sector, more jobs are expected to emerge as oil and gas prices recover. Strong demand is anticipated for professionals in the semiconductor, medical devices, consumer electronics and manufacturing industries, especially in the Research & Development departments.
  • Hiring immediately available candidates remain challenging, even as the contracting market in Singapore has matured in recent years. Professionals with niche skillsets in IT, accounting & finance, will be in short supply on a contract basis.

Attracting Glocal Talent to ‘Balik Kampung’

According to the survey, the competition for good local talent, as well as “glocal” talent, especially those from established markets such as Singapore, will continue to remain strong. Companies seeking to attract top talent will need to tap on innovative solutions to gain an edge. Robert Walters Singapore’s award-winning Balik Kampung campaign, launched in 2014, has helped organisations reach out and hire returning Singapore professionals. With a talent pool of more than 3,000 previously untapped overseas Singaporeans from various disciplines interested in coming home, the campaign has received two innovation awards and gained recognition on a global level.

For more information, please visit www.robertwalters.com.sg/

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