Increased demand from Hong Kong employers for skilled Southeast Asia tech talent

Photo by Zen Chung

The Southeast Asia Startup (SEA) Talent Report 2023 released by Glints and Monk’s Hill Ventures (MHV), unveils the latest data and insights regarding recruitment trends and the talent landscape in Southeast Asian markets, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Hong Kong-based employers can take insights from the report to understand more about improving cost-effectiveness by hiring skilled tech professionals from markets across Southeast Asia.

Increasing demand from Hong Kong-based employers for SEA talent

Hong Kong-based employers are currently faced with a talent shortage and a brain drain, particularly within the market’s burgeoning tech sector.

In addition, the government recently announced its plan to “trawl for talent” globally to attract talent back to Hong Kong. As a result, Glints is forecasting an increased demand from employers for skilled Southeast Asia tech talent.

“We are seeing an increasing demand from Hong Kong-based employers for talent from Southeast Asia. These employers are becoming more adaptable in building high-performing teams by hiring skilled talent from markets like Indonesia and Vietnam,” said Puay Lim Yeo, Managing Director of Glints.

“By expanding their search beyond a hypercompetitive and costly local market, these employers can tap into a deep pool of skilled tech and tech-adjacent talent in a cost-efficient way.”

Glints conducted salary research in Hong Kong compared to various markets in Southeast Asia and found cost advantages to hiring skilled tech and tech-adjacent talent in Southeast Asia. for tech and tech-adjacent roles.

The findings include:

  • Median salaries for tech roles such as engineering, product and data are 2.5 times higher in Hong Kong than in Southeast Asia.
  • Median salaries for business development roles are 3 times higher in Hong Kong compared to Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
  • Median salaries for senior software engineers with 5-10 years of experience are 3 times higher in Hong Kong compared to Indonesia and the Philippines and 1.8 times higher than in Vietnam. (The median salary for Hong Kong software engineers is US$67,560 annually compared to US$36,870 for Vietnam and US$22,150 for Indonesia.)
  • Median salaries for product manager roles are 2-3 times higher in Hong Kong than in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The median salary for a Hong Kong product manager is US$59,120 annually compared to US$33,000 for Vietnam and US$14,040 for Indonesia.

Southeast Asia Tech Talent Pool Grows

Glints’ report, “The Southeast Asia Startup Talent Report 2023“, identifies hiring trends, salary, and equity data for startup talent from over 10,000 data points and in-depth interviews with founders across Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam. It provides local insight for Hong Kong companies considering hiring talent from beyond the city’s borders:

  • Return of the “SEA turtles”: A growing number of tech engineers trained in the United States are returning home and developing an engineering-centric culture in their home countries. These engineers, who have honed their skills in places like Silicon Valley, know how to build systems at scale and have what it takes to build a product-led company. This trend is emerging in Vietnam, where talent is returning from other sectors in addition to banking and finance.
  • Salary expectations will stabilize across SEA: Historically, there are cost advantages for Hong Kong-based employers hiring for Southeast Asia tech talent. In addition to that, the report finds that salary expectations for talent to become more manageable in 2023 compared to previous years, where there was more competition for talent and higher salary inflation. The growth rate will be much lower than in previous years for tech salaries, from upwards of 30% to 10-20% per annum.
  • Potential arbitrage opportunities from emerging Southeast Asia markets: There are opportunities to source strong senior tech talent in Southeast Asia. For example, the report finds that the quality of engineers in the Philippines is not much different from other markets and can be highly economical to hire and scale this talent. Engineering talent in markets like Indonesia and Vietnam can be 3 times lower than in more mature markets.