Employment Trends 2020: Asia Employment Market in 2020 and Beyond

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, companies are searching for ways to keep their operations going and minimising the impact on the functionality of their workforce. Technology has been playing a crucial role in keeping businesses’ afloat, enabling companies to resume their operations by embracing remote work and employing more contingent, non-employee, workers. Before the pandemic, the number of contingent workers employed by companies in Asia was around 26%; post-pandemic, that number is expected to rise as 78% of C-suite leaders are planning to include more contingent workers in their talent pool. Business are witnessing the benefits of employing talent that can deliver quick, cost-effective, and high-quality solutions – allowing the business to achieve competitive advantage through better cost control and reduced risk.

To find out more about the current employment market outlook across Asia, we have asked our experts based in Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand to give us an overview of their markets and the arising trends.

Vivian Xiang

Practice Director, Hong Kong


To remain competitive and sustainable, majority businesses are rapidly embracing and implementing digital transformation. To achieve that, they are searching for talents to help drive their business towards a customer-centric model. As technology is an integral part of the digital transformation process, the tech talent market is growing and becoming more competitive.

Digital transformation needs to be considered from both technological and cultural aspect. The needed talent is, thus, assessed by its technical skills and mindset. For example, a Chief Digital Officer must have a good balance of technical skills, a business mindset and power of influence on the traditional culture. Hence, in large, traditional companies, we see a growing demand for talent that would fit Agile Coach/Scrum Master, Cloud/DevOps Engineering roles. Due to the shift towards more online-based services, we have noticed a growing need for cyber security roles in the market.

Furthermore, Hong Kong is a leading global financial centre. In the last few years, we have witnessed rapid expansions of Fintech and Insurtech companies, often backed up by large banks. Last year, HSBC alone has fully subsided at least 2 start-ups specialised in building online trading platform and decentralised the trading platform by utilizing blockchain technology. We are seeing growing demand for Data Science, Data Engineering, Full Stack Development, and Backend Development roles.

Moreover, in a fully digitised world, digital marketing agencies are growing from small to large sized companies, increasing the demand for digital tech roles, e.g. Web Development and Mobile Development.

Having over 10 years’ experience within IT/tech recruitment space, the market has never been more exciting and challenging.  As the demand grows for more new, specific skills, and new concepts of work emerging, it is the ideal time to discover where your true passion lies. Now more than ever, employers are looking to hire talent that goes beyond the skills – someone who is passionate and willing to grow and learn.

Peter Macy

Country Manager, Japan


In Japan, we’re seeing a growing need for hiring talent within Internet of Things (IoT) industry. Businesses dealing with Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Mobility (connected cars and autonomous driving), MedTech, and Fintech are experiencing high demand due to the 5G implementation within IoT space. Hence, companies are looking to hire talent specialised in IT development, online and communications, cybersecurity, engineering and sales. Due to COVID-19, and the inability for people to shop in physical stores, the online industry witnessed a growing trend in smartphone payment services. This drove a lot of talent towards the e-Commerce industry, particularly those with strong financial background, app development, and security.

Furthermore, Japan has an ageing population; thus, healthcare companies are looking for talent that would be essential in understanding and battling nervous system disorders, life sciences, nutrition and oncology.

Japan was set to host the 2020 Olympic Games that, due to the pandemic, have now been postponed to next year – 2021. Post-pandemic, the employment market has been growing as there was increasing demand for individuals that specialise in Marketing & Sales, PR, Supply Chain Logistic, Tourism & Hospitality, Travel, with a particularly high demand for those that are fluent in both Japanese and English.

Sunyaluck (Tak) Petchprapai

Country Manager, Thailand


In Thailand, the narrative has shifted towards more supply chain and digital roles. A lot of businesses are searching for quality talent that specialises in digital media, data analytics, sales and digital marketing, as well as compliance and regulations.

Tech-specific roles are the most sought after – as the world of work is changing, a lot of companies are currently going through, or at the beginning of, the digital transformation journey. They need tech-skilled talent for support throughout, and after, the digitalisation process. Those specialising as Software Engineers, Developers, Data Analysts, Project Managers, Solution Architects and Cyber/IT Security are especially in demand.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 had an overall negative impact on growth for some industries, e.g. Oil & Gas, Hospitality, Recreation, Transportation, and F&B; however, industries such as Insurance, e-Commerce & Communications, and Logistics have experienced positive growth.

Personally, I’m seeing high demand for both tech-specific and non-technical roles, specifically in sales & marketing of total solutions in digital transformation for the FSI/Insurance and Logistic industries.

Tracy Tran

Country Manager, Vietnam


There are sectors that have ramped up hiring in the past months, namely e-commerce, e-learning, last mile delivery, but especially the online entertainment industry (streaming and gaming). SaaS (software as a service) provider that supply global markets are also hiring, but in Vietnam demand in this sector is moderate to low. IT and outsourcing companies in Vietnam were spared large personnel cuts and the majority are still recruiting but they are no longer as ‘thirsty’ as before. Factories were looking to bring new workers on board in the end of 2019 but, amid the COVID-19 crisis, they are not actively recruiting, rather only ‘window shopping’ for talent. Other industries practically froze all recruitment activities.

The companies that are thriving have a common thread — these are all businesses with strong online models and strategies. Their focus is on process optimization and technology application to reduce dependency on human resources, with special focus on recruiting highly skilled workers, e.g. e-Commerce, EdTech and Online Learning, Gaming, Social Media, Video Conferencing, Podcasts, MedTech, Fintech and Logistics.

Companies are cutting costs, optimizing operations, and streamlining personnel. As a result, many new recruits will find that their roles have become more versatile and that they have more responsibilities. We are also seeing quite a few mergers with companies pooling resources to stay afloat and streamlining teams. In the next couple of months, some businesses will also try to switch to recruiting remote workers; however, in Vietnam, the number of businesses for whom this is a viable option is, in my opinion, very low.