The top 3 workforce risks for business in Asia in 2022

The biggest current workforce risks in Asia? You’ll be surprised. It’s not just the goal posts that have been moved. It’s the whole playing field.

In times past, workforce risk rankings traditionally involved workplace health and safety issues, including things like machinery operation, chemicals handling etc.

Or they focussed on workforce management issues that could hurt your bottom line or damage your reputation, such as regulatory non-compliance, tax fraud, misclassification, administrative errors or payroll mistakes.

As part of the risk management solutions, all employers are deemed responsible for identifying safety and reputational hazards such as these and then taking steps to eliminate or reduce the risks; all in accordance with Workplace Safety and Health (Risk Management) Regulations in force in the country concerned.

But in Asia things have changed somewhat over the past two years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only transformed the concept of work and workplaces, but it has also reshaped employer and employee expectations. The risks associated with talent management, technology adoption, business continuity and culture are now top of mind for business leaders, and a company’s ability to address these threats is now crucial for protecting business operations, revenue, reputation, and talent acquisition.

These are some of the findings from a 2021 report by Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) entitled The Five Pillars of People Risk: Managing risks for workforce and business resilience which surveyed 1,380+ participants globally, including HR professionals and Risk Managers across Asia (1).

The report confirmed that talent attraction, retention and engagement has emerged as the top workforce risk and the most pertinent threat for employers in Asia. Cybersecurity and data privacy were ranked second and third.

The top workforce risks in Asia?

72% of respondents in Asia ranked talent attraction, retention and engagement as the most serious risk for their organisation. The threat is multi-faceted as Asia is faced with a growing shortage of skilled workers due to the pandemic, exacerbated by an aging society not keen to master all the rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other emerging technologies that are transforming jobs and the skills needed to do them.

In fact, The World Economic Forum estimates that more than half of all employees will require significant reskilling in the next three years. (2)

The report also reveals that, amidst the chaos of COVID, companies are failing to develop a strong talent pipeline or a compelling employee value proposition (EVP) to attract new talent. Nor is much being done about reskilling and upskilling employees to make them future-ready.

Interestingly, the report reveals that 58.9% of respondents in Asia acknowledged the severe impact cybersecurity would have on the business and nearly half (47.2%) considered data privacy having the potential to cause severe impacts to the business. This, of course, reflects the heightened exposure and prominence of cybercrime in the business press of today. It also reflects the changing nature of modern business as companies with disparate digital systems across geographies or organisational functions increase their exposure to cyberattacks.

Asia’s workforce risk rankings are different to the rest of the world

In the report, the top 3 risks in Asia were similar to the global ranking, although Asia was the only region to rank talent attraction, retention and engagement as the top risk. Worryingly, while workforce exhaustion and deteriorating mental health were identified as two of the top 10 risks globally, they were not even considered as top 10 risks in Asia.

Is that because of Asia’s obsessive work ethic? Perhaps. But whatever the reason, it’s a dangerous blind spot for business in Asia. Stress levels, exhaustion and mental health are now key issues for employees, especially with this pandemic without end, and represent critical risks that could lead to potential cybersecurity breaches, high employee turnover and reduced productivity.

In the report, only half of the respondents (50.3%) saw workforce exhaustion as having a significant impact on businesses with only 58.9% indicating they are addressing the in some way. As for deteriorating mental health, only four in 10 (41.1%) acknowledged the potential severe impact on their organisations, with 56.4% addressing the risk to great or some extent.

These findings, when compared to the rest of the world, indicate there’s a huge opportunity for employers in Asia to play a more active role in helping their workforce to achieve better health outcomes. This in turn will lead to a happier, more productive workforce, improved talent retention and a real competitive advantage.

Though talent attraction and retention and cybersecurity are critically important, there is nothing more important to the health of a business than the health of its people. Especially in the midst of a global pandemic.


If you would like more information about workforce risk in Asia, or about any aspect of workforce management; including how CXC can help you attract and retain top talent for your business, or build a competitive and compelling Employer Brand. Then don’t hesitate to contact us today!


(1) See 2021

(2) org/agenda/2020/01/reskilling-revolution-jobs-future-skills/