Singapore is forecasting robust economic growth this year, thanks to the nation’s successful vaccination programme, opening up of domestic borders, economic revival and burgeoning business confidence.
However, even as companies ramp up business activities and resume stalled hiring plans to prepare for the anticipated growth, an interplay of factors is aggravating the talent crunch they are already facing, fostering a job seekers’ market and driving up salaries.
This is according to RGF International Recruitment’s Salary Watch 2022: Singapore report, which is based on a comprehensive analysis of survey data gleaned from close to 20,000 candidates across all industries and job levels in Singapore, from April 2021 to April 2022.
The research aims to shed some light on the needs, demands and expectations of employers and candidates in Asia, and how they may be influencing salary trends.
The transformational changes in the modus operandi of many organisations – largely driven by digitalisation and accelerated by the pandemic – coupled with the quickening pace of economic recovery have given rise to a slew of high-demand job functions and new roles, and led to spikes in talent acquisition.
Meanwhile, foreign investors continue to bank on Singapore’s status as a leading biotechnology, pharmaceutical and financial hub. As investments pour in and travel restrictions ease up further across the region, employers, particularly in the high-growth industries like Technology, High-tech Manufacturing, Healthcare & Life Sciences, and Financial Services, are gaining more confidence and projecting increased hiring activity.
However, the dire shortage of talent is exacerbated by the contraction of talent pools with key or niche skillsets due to expatriate PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) leaving Singapore during the onset of the pandemic.
This has widened the talent gap, intensified the competition among employers in attracting talent, and driving salaries up further. This is particularly so in Singapore’s key economic sectors, including Healthcare & Life Sciences, Industrial, Banking, Financial Services & Insurance, Consumer, Corporate Services and Technology.
Healthcare and Life Sciences
The robust research and innovation ecosystem of the Healthcare & Life Sciences sector is spurring growth, and propelling demand for talent in fields like digital health, molecular diagnostics and laboratory medicine.
Salaries for hot jobs have increased significantly, especially for in-demand roles like Research and Development (3.9%), Regulatory Affairs (4.3%), and Sales and Marketing (6.7%); and employers are willing to offer an average salary increment of 11%.
The Industrialsector, a key pillar of growth in Singapore’s economy, contributes about 21% to its GDP. The pandemic has accelerated the push towards advanced manufacturing, involving the deployment of new technologies, digitalised processes, and automated production lines to sustain operations.
This means employers in this sector are increasingly on the hunt for talent with mechanical and engineering experience and expertise. Skills in demand for one of the hot jobs – R&D are design, product development and budget management.
Other hot jobs include Applications Engineering and Sales & Marketing. Remuneration packages, perks and benefits for such talent have been improving over the years, and employers are willing to offer an average salary increment of 12%.
Singapore’s Financial Services sector is optimistic about its growth trajectory for 2022, which is slated to be a year of recovery and restructuring for the banks.
The sector is seeing continuing advancement in digitalisation and innovation, key trends in FinTech including the proliferation of digital payments, virtual banking, buy now, pay later (BNPL) schemes, and rising popularity of cryptocurrency among retail and institutional investors.
Employers are ramping up the already intense war for talent, and raising salaries, particularly for hot jobs in Relationship Management (17.2%), and Institutional Sales (10.7%), and Risk Management (6.1%).
Employers are willing to pay an average salary increment of 14%, and the increases for new roles, such as Machine Learning Engineers, and Partnership/Product Leads for Bitcoin wallets, are growing between 10 and 20%.
The Consumer sector is also expected to post steady growth this year due to the easing of pandemic control measures. In their bid to adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic, companies have increasingly migrated towards digitalisation and adopted data-driven marketing strategies. Consequently, roles that are seeing higher demand and rises in salary are prevalent in areas like Marketing Analytics, Consumers Insights, E-Commerce, and Marketing Technology. Employers are willing to offer an average salary increment of 8%.
Business sentiments remain positive for the Corporate Services sector as well. Many organisations are adopting a digital-first strategy and redesigning jobs, particularly in fields like Finance and Accounting.
The rise in salaries for this sector is steep, particularly for in-demand job functions and roles in fields like Talent Acquisitions, Compensations and Benefits, HR Resources, Legal Compliance, and Compensation & Benefits, which are growing by at least 20 to 30%. Employers are willing to pay an average salary increment of 17%.
Talent crunch in Technology
The talent crunch in the Technology sector is becoming more dire due to the accelerated pace of digitalisation since the onset of the pandemic and the broader adoption of emerging technologies and innovations like 5G. Due to the recent spate of phishing scams, cybersecurity has also become a key area of focus.
As more and more companies join the hunt for candidates with digital skills and due to the limited talent pool, employers have had to raise their hiring budget and cast their net overseas to fill hot jobs in fields like Applications Engineering, Cybersecurity, AI and Data Science, as well as offer significant increases in salaries (averaging 13%) to procure such talent.
As Mike Wilkshire, Managing Director of RGF Professional Recruitment Singapore, sums it up: “It is a good time to be a job seeker in Singapore today. Candidates in most key sectors have the upper hand because of talent shortage, high demand for specialised skills, and the emergence of new roles and functions.
“Companies have had to compete for talent from a limited pool, raising salaries and improving benefits packages to attract and retain the best people. As the talent shortage continues, employers will need to do more to remain competitive in today’s job market.”