Employees In Singapore Are Less Engaged

singapore employee engagement

A recent survey of over 5 million employee responses showed that less than 25 percent of employees consider themselves to be highly engaged in their company.

The report, “2017 Trends in Global Employee Engagement,” by Aon Hewitt, covered over 60 industries and showed overall engagement (highly engaged + moderately engaged) scores in the 60 percent range.

Both Singapore and Malaysia fell to below 60 percent for employee engagement. Singapore had a four- point decrease year on year.

Other APAC countries are slightly higher, but are all under 70 percent. India leads the pack at 69 percent, China is at 67 percent, Thailand and the Philippines are tied at 65 percent, with Indonesia rounding out the mix at 61 percent.

employee engagement in singapore 2017

In particular, millennials feel the most disengagement, particularly when surveyed about their companies’ methods to attract talent, promote employees and retain staff. Millennials also rated low on feeling their companies were giving them the appropriate resources to do their jobs.

According to Stephen Hickey, a Partner at Aon Hewitt APAC, “As organisations strive to fuel growth, they must understand how their workforce productivity and pay programmes—both fixed and variable, compare to market. They must educate their people on how they implement pay for performance and recognise top contributors using a blend of financial and non-financial rewards such as development opportunities.”

Aon Hewitt found that there are regional variations in engagement, driven by cultural differences, regional political climate, and local economics. However, some things are universal: colleague recognition and fairness in reward programs is increasingly important in engaging a workforce.

Highest-performing employees are also the most engaged, and there are definitely financial benefits to having engaged employees. Companies with engaged employees outperform other companies by 202 percent and have lower absenteeism. In fact, companies that increase investments in employee engagement by 10 percent reap a reward of higher productivity by $2,400 per employee per year.

Salary Growth Rates Expected Across Asia Pacific In 2017

salary increment asia 2017

Mercer recently performed research on the nominal wage growth occurring in Asia-Pacific countries, and found that that employees should be receiving slightly higher salary increases in 2017 compared to 2016.

The region is seen as an outlier due to the uncertainty of the global economy, and the fact that it is expected to perform above the global average. Inflation is low for most of the countries, so that helps to make the real wage growth relatively better.

Expected Percentages

Two countries that have the largest percentage of salary growth are Vietnam at 9.2 percent and India at 10.8 percent.

In addition, the financial regions of Singapore and Hong Kong are both expected to see about a 4 percent increase.

Countries that are among the lowest with increases between 2-3 percent, include Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

salaries in asia 2017

Employee Pay Levels And Rewards

Korea, Australia and Japan all have starting salaries that begin at about $30,000, and as employees move up the ladder, salaries rise steadily to the point where they could be making between $250,000 and $350,000.

In many of the countries in Asia (especially China), executives that are higher up in companies will earn better paychecks than their counterparts in the United Kingdom and the United States. However, this is only keeping salaries in mind, since things are different when the long-term incentives and social security benefits available in Europe are brought into the equation.

In Asia countries need to focus more on benefits and take a tailored approach. For instance, Korea and Japan both have an aging workforce with the average age of 45, and the benefits provided revolve around retirement and long-term incentives, whereas places with a younger workforce like in the Philippines, Indonesia and India focus on learning and development along with flexible benefits.


Turnover seems to be an issue for companies in just about all of the Asia-Pacific countries as the research uncovered a double-digit turnover rate. The only two countries that aren’t facing these high rates of turnover are New Zealand and Japan.

Economic Activity Improved For 14 Of 19 Sectors In Asia (Nov 2016)

asia jobs november 2016

The Nikkei Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) measures economic activity (such as output, new orders, prices) and consequently employment growth/contraction.

A number above 50 points towards an economic expansion and below 50 points toward a contraction.

Here is a summary of the PMI numbers for countries in Asia, during November 2016. Numbers in brackets are for the previous month.

  • Singapore: 52.8 (50.5)
  • Hong Kong: 49.5 (48.2)
  • Japan: Services 51.8 (50.5), Manufacturing 51.3 (51.4)
  • India: Services 46.7 (54.5) , Manufacturing 52.3 (54.4)
  • Philippines: 56.3 (56.5)
  • Malaysia: 47.1 (47.2)
  • Indonesia: 49.7 (48.7)
  • Thailand: 48.2 (48.8)
  • Vietnam: 54.0 (51.7)

The PMI increased for 14 of the 19 sectors in Asia. Below are some of the sectors which showed the strongest growth and contraction.

  • General industrials: 57.0
  • Industrial services: 56.3
  • Commercial & professional services: 56.1
  • Real estate: 48.9
  • Healthcare services: 48.5
  • Insurance: 46.6

Soft Skills Development Lacking In Asia/Singapore

soft skills singapore asia

Technical/Hard skills may be the ones most commonly listed on resumes, but a recent study by the Singapore Management University, in partnership with J.P. Morgan, shows that soft skills are the ones that many economies in the region are lacking.

The study looked at the skills challenges in countries that are part of the Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, especially Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Results showed that even in government programs, like SkillsFuture in Singapore, participants and employees were receiving sufficient training in hard skills, but soft skills, or the abilities that can be taken across jobs, were being pushed aside.

Soft skills are the characteristics and skills that employees can use anywhere they go, such as common sense, interpersonal and social skills, communication skills, and character traits. They are important for relationships with others, which is something all employees need at any level of employment.

SkillsFuture, the Singapore government’s national effort to improve the education, training and careers of their residents and workers, has made significant strides toward giving employees the teachable, specific skills that are measurable, or hard skills training.

However, the lack of soft skills is one area in which the Singaporean economy needs improvement. The report also showed other factors and shortages that may be impacting the economy.

  • Singapore, right now, has a high reliance on foreign workers. As a result, the study notes that redesigning or restructuring jobs to better use technology and increase productivity could help to reduce this reliance on foreign workers.
  • There is a definite lack of skilled middle and senior-level professionals in the cybersecurity fields. Much of this is due to lack of training programs and paths to entry for those looking for mid-career switch into the field.
  • Skill gaps are also present in the info-communications technology, electronics, electronics manufacturing, finance and insurance fields. Furthermore, employers are having a hard time attracting qualified professionals into these fields because of pay cuts that many will experience, along with the extensive knowledge needed for success.

Lower Salary Increases Expected in 2017, For Most Of Asia Pacific

average salary increase asia 2017

As per a report by Willis Towers Watson, salaries in Asia Pacific are expected to increase by 5.9% in 2017.

For 2016 they had predicted an increase of 6.4%. However, the actual salary increase in Asia Pacific was 5.8%.

If the same pattern plays out in 2017, then Willis Towers Watson expects an actual increment that is a fair bit lower than 5.9%. That will make it the third consecutive year of declining budgets for salary increments.


If these numbers are adjusted for inflation, then the real salary increase in 2017 is projected to be 2.9% in Asia-Pacific, as compared to an actual increase of 3.5% in 2016.

Here is a breakdown of the numbers for several countries across Asia Pacific.

Country Projected Salary Increase %

(2017, After Inflation)

Vietnam 6.4
Bangladesh 5.0
Pakistan 5.0
China 4.9
Philippines 4.4
Thailand 4.4
India 4.3
Indonesia 4.3
Cambodia 4.0
Singapore 3.2
Malaysia 3.1
Japan 1.9
Hong Kong 1.7
Australia 0.9
Myanmar -2.2


“We are seeing lower salary increase budgets across much of the region,” stated Sambhav Rakyan, Business Leader, Asia Pacific, at Willis Towers Watson.

Who’s The Happiest Of Them All? (In South East Asia)

happiest at work job asia

The online employment site, Jobstreet, complies what is known as the Happiness Index.

This index looks at how happy people are with their jobs in South East Asian countries, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines and Thailand.

Filipinos have the highest rate of job satisfaction, with 73% stating that they are happy with their jobs. Next in line were Indonesians (71 percent), followed by Thai (61 percent), Vietnamese (60 percent) and people in Hong Kong (57 percent).

Scores for Singaporeans and Malaysians were the lowest, coming in at 48% and 47%, respectively.

Respondents were also asked how happy they are with their jobs on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely unhappy and 10 being extremely happy. Here are the ratings:

  • Philippines: 6.25
  • Indonesia: 6.16
  • Thailand: 5.74
  • Hong Kong: 5.54
  • Vietnam: 5.48
  • Malaysia: 5.22
  • Singapore: 5.09

So what makes people in The Philippines like their job? According to the report, the biggest contributors are good relations with colleagues, convenient location of work and the employer’s reputation. Factors that are the main cause of unhappiness include low salary, lack of benefits and dearth of training/learning opportunities.

In terms of happiness levels for different industries in The Philippines, here are the results (from happiest to least happy):

  • Government (6.66)
  • Education (6.53)
  • Oil (6.49)
  • Retail (6.08)
  • Banking & finance (6.03)
  • Business process outsourcing/call center (5.99)

Rising Wages Are Harming The Economy And Jobs In Singapore

asia singapore export jobs

Wages/salaries in Singapore have continued to increase, even with lower corporate earnings and low growth in productivity.

Part of the reason behind the increase, are recent measures that have been taken to rein-in the number of foreigners working in Singapore. Over the years it has become harder for foreigners to get a job in Singapore, since the eligibility criteria has been raised for employment passes, S passes and also dependent passes.

As per economists at Credit Suisse, these rising costs are making Singapore less competitive as an exporter.

Here are the rankings of countries in Asia, in terms of export competitiveness.

  1. Vietnam
  2. Philippines
  3. China
  4. India
  5. Malaysia
  6. Thailand
  7. South Korea
  8. Singapore
  9. Taiwan
  10. Indonesia

The top performers have been gaining market share, while countries like Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia have been losing out.

As per the report, these findings are a concern for the economy and jobs in Singapore, especially due to:

  • The export driven economy.
  • Slowing down of corporate earning/profit levels.
  • Low levels of consumer confidence.
  • Low productivity growth.

Fancy Working At The Best Performing Companies In Asia Pacific?

best performing companies in asia 2016

In case our report on the best brands in Singapore wasn’t enough for you, how about a ranking of the highest performing blue-chip companies in Asia?

Perhaps one of these titans could be the place where you work next?

The ranking is complied by Forbes, who aim to arrive at a list of corporate stars in the region, through the following process:

  • The starting point is a total of 1,524 public firms, who have yearly revenue of at least $1.7 billion.
  • These firms are then narrowed down to those who are profitable and whose revenue is greater than it was five years back.
  • Companies with more than 50% government ownership are then taken out of the list.
  • Those with debt ratio of greater than 50%, or those who have a listed parent company as the majority owner, are also out of the running.
  • And finally, the remaining few are evaluated based on a slew of financial indicators/measures.

And that gives us the best companies in Asia Pacific!

22 firms from China met the criteria, the most out of all countries in the region. Alibaba was one of the 22 and made it to the list for the first time in 12 years.

Here are the top 10 firms in Asia Pacific

best companies in asia 1

best companies in asia 2

For the entire list of 50 firms who made the cut in 2016, along with other details and analysis, head over to the Forbes website.

A Look At Asian Consumer Confidence Levels For The Next 6 Months

consumer confidence index asia 1h 2016

The most recent Mastercard Index of Consumer Confidence (at the end of H1 2016) shows continued consumer confidence in the majority of Asia Pacific markets.

The Index numbers are compiled through a survey of over 8,500 respondents between the ages of 18 to 64. Those surveyed reside in the 17 Asia Pacific markets that are rated.  They are asked to give a six-month outlook on important economic factors in the region.

Those factors include: the economic conditions, employment prospects, income prospects, the stock market, and quality of life.  Index ratings are calculated on a scale of 0 (most pessimistic) to 100 (most  optimistic), with a rating of 50 considered neutral.

Even with only minor increases in the overall score for Asia Pacific (0.05 points), the index numbers are only slightly below the optimistic level (60 points).

Of the 17 markets ranked, Taiwan’s gain of 16.3 points (to 45.3) raised their numbers from the lowest ranking in the region a year earlier.  Taiwan’s numbers have been on a roller-coaster ride over recent years. The H1 2016 numbers were boosted because of increases in all major factors, with better expectations in stock market movements being the primary contributor.

The Philippines, also showed significantly better results.  Recent elections in the country caused consumer confidence to improve almost 13 points, to 95.2.  The Philippines’ score has not been higher since the inception of the survey in 1995.

Not all of the countries in the region scored as well. Confidence levels for seven of the 17 markets deteriorated since H2 2015.  Indonesia, followed by Hong Kong, and Singapore, showed the largest drop in confidence. Sagging employment prospects were pointed to as the chief reason for the declines.

Eric Schneider, Asia Pacific- Senior Vice President, Mastercard Advisors said, “Overall consumer confidence in Asia Pacific has shown a marginal change with some economies facing headwinds, but the region’s emerging markets including China, India, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines remain resilient with consumers expressing optimism about economic prospects over the next six months. Even as emerging Asia continues to drive the region’s growth, governments and businesses need to ensure stability and strong fundamentals in order to weather future external shocks.”

Highlights for Asia Pacific:

  • Consumer confidence in APAC markets, with a slight increase of 0.05 percent, remains stable. Overall, the region’s rating rose to 59.72 since H2 2015.  Markets ranked below the 50 line, eight of 17, remained the same.
  • Since recording the most extreme deterioration of consumer confidence in H2 2015, Taiwan rebounded strongly with the largest improvement in H1 2016. Other markets with jumps of at least 5 points were the Philippines, India, and Malaysia.
  • Extreme optimism was voiced by consumers in India (97.6), the Philippines (95.2), Vietnam (94.9), and Myanmar (99.8).
  • Significant Index drops were reported in seven of 17 markets. Indonesia (-14.7), Hong Kong (-12.4), and Singapore (-10.7), had the largest declines.  Decreases in Japan (-8.8), and the aforementioned Hong Kong and Singapore, moved their markets into pessimistic (less than 50 rating) from neutral.

Ratings by country

Australia and New Zealand – Both nations remain in neutral territory. A slight drop was reported for Australia (0.1).  In New Zealand, a slight increase of 3.4 points was helped by improved outlook for employment and the stock Market.

China and Bangladesh – China’s confidence rating rose 1.4 points to 76.  The numbers for Bangladesh showed a greater increase, up 4.3 points to 71.6.

Hong Kong – Hong Kong has seen significant decreases for two consecutive surveys. Hong Kong now sits at the bottom of the Index (32.1).  All five components contributed to the decline, with the employment outlook (-20.9) being the biggest factor.

India – India remains in an extremely optimistic territory by posting a 7.5 point gain, which moved their score up to 97.6.

Indonesia – Indonesia lost significant ground, with the largest decrease of all 17 markets (-14.7).  All five components declined, with employment (-26.9) and the economy (-22.5) showing the largest losses.

Japan – This once mighty economic power continues to fall further behind its neighbors. With a drop of 8.8 points, it moves deeper into pessimistic territory at 38.0 points.  A 22 point loss in confidence in the stock market fueled the continuing slide.

Malaysia – All five components improved enough to halt the two-year slide for Malaysia.  Their rating of 41.4 was raised 9.5 points by renewed faith in the stock market (12.4) and quality of life (11.4).

Myanmar and Vietnam – Both nations remained solidly in the extremely optimistic category with ratings of 94.9 and 99.8 respectively.

Singapore – Singapore fell 10.7 points, entering into the pessimistic category with a score of 33.6.  Double-digit losses in quality of life (-14.5), regular income (-12), and employment (-11) signal problems for the nation.

South Korea – Remained firmly in pessimistic territory with a score of 34.2.

Thailand – Their two-year slide (since H1 2014) continues.  A loss of 8.5 points drops them into neutral territory.

H1 2016 Current Status Change from last half
Asia Pacific 59.72 Neutral + 0.05 Stable +
Australia 42.2 Neutral – -0.1 Stable –
China 76.0 Very Optimistic 1.4 Stable +
Hong Kong 32.1 Pessimistic -12.4 Significant Deterioration
India 97.6 Extremely Optimistic 7.5 Some Improvement
Indonesia 61.8 Optimistic -14.7 Significant Deterioration
Japan 38.0 Pessimistic -8.8 Some Deterioration
Korea 34.2 Pessimistic 0.4 Stable +
Malaysia 41.4 Neutral – 9.5 Some Improvement
New Zealand 55.4 Neutral + 3.4 Stable +
Philippines 95.2 Extremely Optimistic 12.9 Significant Improvement
Singapore 33.6 Pessimistic -10.7 Significant Deterioration
Taiwan 45.3 Neutral – 16.3 Significant Improvement
Thailand 58.2 Neutral + -8.5 Some Deterioration
Vietnam 94.9 Extremely Optimistic 0.7 Stable +
Myanmar 99.8 Extremely Optimistic 4.0 Stable +
Bangladesh 71.6 Optimistic 4.3 Stable +
Sri Lanka 38.0 Pessimistic -4.2 Stable –

Asian CEOs Most Bullish About Increasing Jobs And Sales

increase in jobs asia

A global pulse survey conducted by YPO in July 2016 shows that Asian CEOs are the most confident in the world.

There has been a positive upswing from 60 points to 62.9 points in regards to their business/economic outlook of Asia.  This positive outlook was mostly inspired by India, which is the fastest growing economy in the world and went from 66.4 to 68 points.

The majority of Asian business leaders (72 percent in 2Q 2016 vs 59 percent last quarter) are projecting higher sales. Over the next 12 months, they are also predicting an increase in fixed investments. Not only are they anticipating sales to increase, 38 percent of them are planning on hiring new employees.

In looking at Southeast Asia, the confidence in increasing sales and jobs increased from 56.9 points to 60.5. This score is the highest it has been since Q1 of 2015. Even though it’s not as high as the overall score for Asia, it still shows the optimism of those in the area.

In terms of some country specifics, Malaysia’s confidence score went from 51.4 to 59.8, Hong Kong’s went from 45.9 to 54.5 and Singapore’s jumped just slightly from 54.5 to 54.9.

Despite the slowdown in China’s economy, the confidence score only dipped from 64 to 62.2.

According to YPO founder and CEO, Shiyin Cai, even though there have been issues with the short-term stability of the global economy, the confidence in China and India remains strong. This is very important as those are the two most important economies in Asia. As long as these two stay strong, Asia as a whole will continue to flourish.



A Key Element Needed To Become a CIO In Asia

asian chief information officer cio skills experience

The are many factors that are needed for someone to reach the C-suite.

For Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in Asia, international work experience is a very important factor.

Working overseas has become an important and positive experience for their careers, according to a large percentage of Asia’s CIOs.

In a recent report, published by the recruitment firm Hays, majority of the 307 CIOs surveyed, felt that overseas experience was beneficial in a number of ways, including skills, exposure, and building of senior management attributes.

how to become cio in asia

The findings revealed that, of the 44 percent of CIOs with overseas experience, most of time was spent in North America (49 percent).  Other countries where overseas experience was accumulated include: 30 percent in Europe, 19 percent in Australia and New Zealand, 13 percent in Great Britain, and 5 percent in the Middle East and Africa.

The overseas experience was longer than two years for 60 percent of Asian CIOs who worked abroad.

Of the people with overseas experience, a great majority (70 percent) felt their careers benefited considerably because of their experience.  Only an extremely small percentage (3 percent) said that the experience was of little or no benefit.

The trend for CIOs desiring overseas experience is not waning.  Currently, 38 percent of CIOs interviewed for the survey are considering opportunities for experiences outside of Asia.  Again, North America is the most preferred working spot for the highest percentage of CIOs (42 percent), with Europe as the second most desirable (26 percent).  Clearly, Asia’s CIOs look at worldwide experience as an important facet of their resumes.

Of those looking for opportunities outside Asia, 50 percent look at the time in other countries as an important step for career development.  However, there were other reasons why Asia’s CIOs want overseas experience.

  • Over one third looked favorably at the opportunities available in international markets.
  • 34 percent wanted the varied work-life balance available.
  • 26 percent wanted to experience a more multi-dimensional CIO experience not available in Asia.

Asian employers, while appreciating the reasons for CIOs looking to other areas of the world to enhance their experience, are becoming worried that they will lose many talented IT professionals.  The feeling among Asian businesses and employment recruiters, is concern that exposure to different cultures, practices, and cutting edge technology in advanced worldwide markets, will cause “a brain drain at the most senior level.”

Those professionals who do return from overseas experiences, are considered extremely valuable assets to Asian employers, due to their global experience and broader set of soft skills (communication, innovation, and ease of adaptation).

Technology will displace many jobs in ASEAN

technology replace jobs asean

A recent study conducted by the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities, examined how technology will affect workplaces across the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The research for the study is based on two surveys of more than 4,000 businesses, 2,700 students, and 330 stockholders.  The specific sectors examined were:  automotive and parts companies, electronics and parts manufacturing, clothing and footwear, the outsourcing of business processes, and retail.

As per the study, a high amount of salaried jobs in South East Asia will be displaced by technology (such as Internet of Things, Robotics and Additive Manufacturing), by the year 2025.  The estimate is that over 50 percent of salaried employment may be at risk, over the next few decades.

The main area where jobs are at risk is in more labor-intensive businesses:  textiles, clothing, and footwear.  And the greatest negative effect will fall mainly on younger female employees.  Nations most affected by the job loss look to be Cambodia and Vietnam, however, other countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines will be impacted as well.

In the eyes of a majority of enterprises (60 percent), the use of technologies is seen as a positive, for increased sales, greater productivity from labor, and more opportunities for highly-skilled workers.  In fact, many enterprises have already implemented automation as a way to increase productivity, as well as quality and workplace safety.

The adapt to these developments, the ILO cites a need for greater capital investment, research and development, and high-value production, in ASEAN nations that have previously competed through low-wage labor in the global marketplace.

The ILO also emphasized a greater need for a more highly-skilled workforce, one that is able to adapt to new technologies.  Also emphasized is the need for a greater emphasis on technical (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines by educators in the region.

A look at the percentages reveals the uphill climb ahead for ASEAN educators and businesses, where very few students are engaging in STEM courses. Especially sobering is the low number of young women currently studying in the STEM disciplines, only 17 percent.

If employees, employers, and nations in the ASEAN are to affect a positive change for their future labor prospects, systems and education will need to be significantly improved.  It is the only way that a future workforce will be able to cope with the coming influx of technological advances in the labor market.