APAC Employment Monitor Q3 2015 Highlights:
- Job vacancies remained flat year-on-year in Q3 2015 compared to Q3 2014
- The number of professionals actively seeking employment was up 10% year-on-year from Q3 2014 to Q3 2015
- Job vacancies decreased by 5% quarter-on-quarter from Q2 2015 to Q3 2015
- The number of professionals actively seeking employment was up 7% quarter-on-quarter from Q2 2015 to Q3 2015
The Q3 2015 Asia Pacific Employment Monitor shows that professionals are becoming increasingly confident with their prospects of career enhancing job changes. On a year-on-year basis, professionals seeking new roles rose 10% from 31,581 to 34,844. Vacancies were flat year-on-year with a change of 0.2% from 15,316 to 15,342. Those seeking new employment also grew on a quarter-on-quarter basis from 32,499 to 34,844: a rise of 7%. Quarter-on-quarter, job vacancies decreased 5% from 16,052 to 15,432.
“We’re seeing a generational shift in the jobs market,” said Richie Holliday, Chief Operations Officer, Asia Pacific. “Generation Y are more willing to change employers. Whilst money is an important factor to them, so is recognition. They want quicker career progression and to get those promotions they realise a change of employer often speeds up that process”.
“It’s worth noting however, that salaries across APAC are close to other prominent financial centres such as London,” continued Holliday. Recent data from salary benchmarking site, Emolument suggests that 25% of Middle and Back Office professionals in Asia earn more than $100,000 (USD), compared to 36% of Middle and Back Office professionals in the UK.
Another factor to consider is the changing trend in the originating background of expatriates in Asia. Five years ago the average expatriate was a Westerner on a short-term assignment, working for a large multinational. Now that profile is different, with only about a third of them fitting the “traditional” mould. The new generation of expatriates is mainly made up of Western-educated Asians returning to build careers in Asia and younger Western ones willing to relocate to Asia for the long term.
On the macro front it’s been a rough three months for markets in the APAC region, the fall in asset prices has been led by China, which has experienced a particularly bad quarter. The worst day for Chinese equities was Monday, 24th of August, when the Shanghai market closed nearly 9% down in a single day. This was the worst day for Chinese stocks since 2007 and has been called China’s own “Black Monday”.
“One quarter is not a long enough time frame to make any conclusive assumptions about the knock-on effects of the crash in Chinese equities,” said Holliday. “Some hiring managers have put a temporary hold on planned increases in headcount, but the last quarter of the year will show us if we can expect a longer term decrease in hiring”.
Wage growth in Australia remains particularly sluggish. In figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics wages grew a mere 2.3% for the past year. This is a record low, breaking the previous low set in March of 2015. Wage growth has now been below average for a prolonged period of time with women feeling the brunt of the slow wage growth. While women’s participation in the workforce has increased by 25% during the past three decades, when it comes to wages, women earn an average of 6% less than men. It is now estimated that 90% of Australian women will retire with insufficient savings.
One of the few bright spots in AsiaPac economies in the previous quarter was Japan. With unemployment remaining low and a record number of women in employment, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said the labour market “continues to be on a recovery path”. This was supported by wage figures which saw a rebound in September after falling in August. Adjusted for inflation wages grew by 0.3%, this was the first rise in over two years. However, summer bonuses were flat, causing concerns about household spending.
Chinese shares experienced a poor quarter, partly driven by poor market sentiment and disappointing macro data from fixed-asset investment and industrial production. Retail sales, which beat expectations, were the only positive aspect.
Despite the market turmoil and poor economic figures, jobseekers’ confidence remains high. For the second quarter the China Institute for Employment Research (CIER) Index came in at 2.03, with a figure above 1 indicating that jobseeker confidence is high. The number is however lower than the record high of 2.46 reported in Q1 of 2015. The job market looks particularly strong for those Chinese candidates who are fluent in English with the demand coming from multinational corporations who are reducing foreign staff. Bilingual candidates with specific niche skills are able to command salary increases of up to 30%, due to the limited talent pool.
The Singapore job market is showing signs of a slowdown. Unemployment figures released by the Ministry of Manpower showed an increase from 1.8% to 2.0% during the first quarter. In a post published on Facebook the Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say wrote: “Our employment situation is by no means perfect, but it is one of the best in the world. Our employment rate is one of the highest globally while our unemployment rate is one of the lowest. We must strive to keep it this way for as long as we can”. Headhunters in Singapore have not as yet seen any negative impact on hiring due to the market turmoil in China. However, recruiters are fearing a complete halt to hiring in the second quarter of next year as a result of a possible global growth slowdown.
The Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang has said that economic growth could slow down in the second half of the year. In a blog post, Tsang cited emerging market outflows and uncertainties in the global economy as likely causes. “The speed of the economic growth may not be as high as that in the first half of the year. But I think there is no need to be overly worried or pessimistic because our economic foundation remains good and I believe we are strong and experienced enough to cope with the possible rough situations that may come.” Despite Tsang’s pessimistic comments, figures released in August showed the local economy expanding by a stronger than expected 2.8%. According to human resources professionals and academics fresh graduates are less hardworking than previous generations. Simon Lee Siu-po, assistant dean of undergraduate studies at Chinese University’s business school, said that students are unable to cope with challenges and lack problem solving skills. This has resulted in many employers favouring hiring mainland students, who are seen to perform better and value more what they earn.
Richie Holliday concluded by adding, “Although the region saw a severe financial shock due to the market correction in China, professionals seeking new roles remained confident. Some employers put on the brakes in regards to hiring, in a move to see how permanent the market drop would be. The fourth quarter should see a pick-up in hiring, providing that the markets remain stable.”