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Changes In the Asia Pacific Job Market

The Asia Pacific job market has seen massive fluctuations over the last three years. Like many other regions the city states of Singapore and Hong Kong are facing inflation and a cost-of-living crisis. This article aims to highlight some of the biggest challenges that hiring firms and candidates are currently experiencing in the region’s Financial and Professional Services sectors, and what the considerations are for the near future.

Aligning Client & Candidate Salary Expectations – Over the last 12 months the challenge of being able to match the salary expectations of candidates to client briefs has been on the rise; however, as experts in our fields, we have a strong track record of generating shortlists for our clients quickly.  

During 2022 it was not uncommon to see salaries increase by 30% as demand for skilled talent rocketed, especially after the suppressed hiring period during the pandemic. Many firms feared missing out on the best candidates and they used their large balance sheets to fund inflated job offers. Clients could fund these offers as a result of a reduction in business costs, as firms shifted their attitudes and business models towards working from home. The availability of talent was further impacted as expats and older workers left the workforce.

In 2023 we have seen a change, and clients who were willing to pay inflated salaries are now offering 15% – 20% salary uplift, whilst candidates are still demanding uplifts of 30% and more. Salary expectations of the client and candidate hugely differ, leaving both parties in a stalemate situation – pre-2018 the average candidate salary expectation for a job move was a 15% uplift, but this has now doubled to 30%.

Candidates need to be aware that clients have become very cautious when making job offers, and today often require an extra level of approval on all hires, which typically slows down offer times, and tests the resolve of candidates wanting to move quickly. If you are moving to a cost center role, you need to be aware that asking for too much money could leave you without an offer, as hiring managers are more focused on business commercials. A large portion of candidates who demanded 30% more salary have found themselves looking for a new role 6 months later, as the market turned.

The difference in salary expectations is making it increasingly difficult to match candidates to clients.

Candidate Long-Term vs Short-Term Needs – In the last 12 months candidates seem to be making long-term decisions based on pay, rather than work-life balance, job satisfaction and career advancements.

During the pandemic people were often making big decisions based on short-term needs, frequently rejecting greater opportunities because of the pandemic uncertainties.

Today many candidates are making long-term job decisions purely based on pay, and are not necessarily thinking about the wider role and business opportunities.

As a candidate, when making a choice about a role, look beyond just the pay, and think about both your long- and medium-term needs, as well your aspirations – don’t turn down an exciting opportunity solely based on the salary, although clearly you still do need to pay the bills.

Location Location Location – When trying to decide between Singapore or Hong Kong there are many factors to consider. Both locations have their challenges but can also be very appealing depending on where you are in your career.

Hong Kong began to unwind some of its immigration restrictions late last year, and its border with mainland China reopened in February. The Hong Kong government is attempting to rebuild the economy and attract talent mainly in financial & technological positions, after suffering an exodus of professionals during the pandemic.

Data suggests that if you are young, Hong Kong may have more to offer due to the ease of gaining a visa, and senior candidates might find more job offers available in Hong Kong. However, for candidates with families, Singapore offers a better work-life balance. In Singapore new expats are largely welcome at a senior level, but below that the government’s emphasis is primarily on building what it calls a “Singapore core” of talent.

The hiring market in Asia Pacific is constantly changing and what may have been relevant last year may no longer be the correct information. We have a team of specialist Risk, Compliance, Financial Crime and Cyber recruiters based in Singapore and Hong Kong, we understand the nuances of these markets and are best placed to give you the most relevant up to date information on hiring trends, compensation, and market insights.

If you want a better understanding of the region’s job market, or advice on salary levels, then please contact: Adnan Maddix, Managing Director, Head of Asia – E: