Asia’s Job Leaders and Laggards

Asia has weathered the global financial crisis better than its western counterparts, and the long-term economic outlook for the region is positive. However, with newly elected heads of state in India and Indonesia, moderating growth in China and uncertainty following the coup in Thailand in May, near-term economic predictions for the region are uncertain. Consumer demand and urbanisation are widely regarded to be key forces that will shape investment and employment opportunities in the decades to come, but specifically, in today’s environment, which sectors are the growth leaders and which are the laggards?

At CXC, we are seeing major employment demand in emerging markets such as Indonesia and the Philippines. The Hong Kong job market is seeing a recovery with strong demand for both permanent and long-term contract workers. However, in Singapore, hiring remains sluggish, primarily due to the tightening of regulations on the issuance of work visas and the ever-increasing cost of living. Anecdotally, expatriate workers are seeking other bases in Asia and those that remain in the city tend to focus on regional assignments as opposed to local business.

In Asian emerging markets, job opportunities are spread broadly across the whole spectrum of the economies. According to Ernst and Young’s “Growing Beyond” report released in July, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City, should see large increases in industrial employment in the coming years. By 2030, Jakarta is expected to have the largest working-age population of any global city. Mumbai and Delhi will also be ranked among the top ten with strong labour supply.

Other cities, such as Delhi and Hanoi, will benefit from their relatively competitive labour costs. Manufacturing will expand in cities with more space to grow. Industrial output in more space-constrained cities, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul and Bangkok, with relatively more expensive land and labour costs, will grow much more slowly than in cities such as Jakarta.

With construction spending in Asia forecast to account for almost half of the total global construction spending by 2020, architecture and engineering firm Aecom say there is a lack of engineers in the region.

According to a report by the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board (Spring) in Singapore, released in the first quarter, Taiwan has been seeking software engineering experts in new businesses such as touch panel and green power. The arrival of Windows 8 last year caused a rush for specialists in Windows and Linux related software engineering, and the current demand in that market still lies firmly with software professionals rather than hardware engineers, says the report.

On a similar note, Singapore is re-inventing itself as a financial and technology hub. In October, Visa said it would create 185 technology research and development jobs in the city. In Thailand, prospective employers seek out software engineers who display an affinity for systematic thinking and analytical skills. In Hong Kong, technology companies that are developing diverse product lines, such as tablets and mobile devices, are seeking financial planning and analysis managers.

With regards to jobs in financial services, talent will be required in Beijing, Mumbai and Ho Chi Minh as these cities are set for a rapid expansion in the sector. China’s plan to liberalise the financial sector, as evidenced by the launch of the Shanghai-free trade zone, will lead to healthy job activity for candidates in the financial industry. The potential liberalisation of China’s deposit rates, a quickened pace for the internationalisation of the renminbi and the introduction of competition into the banking sector by allowing more private capital to enter China’s banking sector will add to employment demand.