MORGAN MCKINLEY ASIA PACIFIC EMPLOYMENT MONITOR: END OF YEAR COOLING IN JOBS MARKET.

APAC Employment Monitor Q4 2015 Highlights:

  • The number of professionals actively seeking employment was up 42% quarter-on-quarter from 34,843 to 49,701
  •    Available jobs flat with a change  of 0.6% to 15,432
  •    Japanese market turns around in Q4
  •    Slowdown in hiring towards end of the quarter

The Asia Pacific Employment Monitor for Q4 shows a flattening of available jobs compared to Q3, with only a 0.6% increase. Year-on-year job growth has been strong, with an increase of 35% from 11,427 to 15,432.

“The last quarter of the year is always a cautious time for employers,” says Richie Holliday, Chief Operations Officer, Morgan McKinley Asia Pacific. “This is the time that companies set their hiring targets for the upcoming year, so the activity is low, but when the new year begins it is often a merry-go-round with a quickly moving market”.

In contrast to available jobs, the number of professionals available in Q4 compared to Q3 increased substantially, rising 42% from 34,844 to 49,701. On a year-on-year basis, this was nearly double the number of professionals on the market at the same time in the previous year. Professionals are preparing for the new year by registering with recruitment companies and updating their CVs. Overall, for the full year, the jobs market has been solid and 2016 is expected to deliver reasonable growth.

“Volatility is the new norm in the APAC region,” says Holliday. “We have spikes of volatility in new jobs coming to the market: due to economic trends; and we also experienced large swings in the number of professionals seeking new roles, especially as younger (Generation Y) professionals are quicker to look for new opportunities”.

Australia

The Australian economy has been facing challenges throughout the year: an overheating housing market in Sydney combined with a slump in commodity prices have made for a choppy year. The first half of the year and most of the third quarter had been positive, but the market for jobs has slowed down in Q4 by 28% compared with Q3. Total number of jobs on offer in Q3 was 3,040 and in Q4 2,180.

“The Australian economy has been trying to talk itself into a slowdown all year, without much success,” says Andrew Evans, Chief Operating Officer, Morgan McKinley South Asia. “Finally, in the fourth quarter, it worked. The market cooled down as both employers and professionals seemed to call an early end to 2015”.

A positive trend throughout the year (and the strongest market for jobs in Australia) has been temporary and contract work, which often increases during times of uncertainty. With the current state of the Australian economy, demand for contract positions is expected to remain high in 2016.

Sydney has seen the negative effects of off-shoring for international hires as very few international firms retain their APAC headquarters in Australia, having chosen to move their operations to Asia causing a slowdown in international hiring.

“There are some strong areas  of hiring, particularly in anything related to data and analytics. For professionals with the relevant profile, it is fairly easy for them to secure a new role,” says Evans.

Singapore

It has been a difficult year for the Singapore economy, GDP growth (by Asian standards) has been weak at approximately 2%. As a small country, Singapore’s economy has been tied to that of China. It is likely that the Black Monday crash in Chinese equity markets has had a psychological effect on Singapore – by spooking employers and cutting down hiring with the fear of an economic slowdown. For recruitment, the year was relatively positive up until the third quarter, then weakening clearly towards the end of the year, although quarter-on-quarter the available jobs still showed an overall increase of 18% from 5,840 to 6,880.

“It is very much a case of ‘when China sneezes, Singapore catches a cold’ and this is what we are seeing now,” says Evans. “Although the data shows a decent number, we’ve seen employers putting on the brakes in Q4, particularly during December”.

As in other more developed markets in APAC, Singapore is seeing a trend in offshoring, which is affecting international hiring, particularly investment banking. Private wealth, on the other hand, continues to see strong demand.  “There has been a large, recent growth in the wealthy middle-class in China and they need their money to be managed,” says Holliday. “Singapore is seen as a mature, stable and reliable private wealth centre and Chinese demand will continue to be a tailwind for Singapore banks”.

Japan

In the last quarter of the year, Japan delivered no surprises. In the overall economy, the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempts to raise inflation have fallen a little flat. On the jobs market, which had shown weakening in the first three quarters of the year, Q4 proved a positive as jobs actually increased by 27% from 1,848 in Q3 to 2,352 in Q4. There was plenty of activity with professionals, rising 12% from 1224 in Q3 to 1368 in Q4.

“The first three quarters saw a steady slide in candidate numbers,” says Richie Holliday. “However, the results in Q4 showed some positive momentum. Too early to say if it’s a beginning of a trend as Japan retains some traditional culture in the employment sector: whereby people don’t tend to change employers as easily as elsewhere, so movement will inevitably be slower”.

Mainland China

The Black Monday crash in the third quarter of the year continued to impact the mainland market. For international professionals, the market crash has tempered the draw of Shanghai as a destination to relocate to. The trend for companies to move their operations inland to cheaper, more rural and less cosmopolitan areas has further decreased the allure for international managers. For domestic professionals, the market has remained solid throughout the year. Although there has been a slowdown in jobs of 14% quarter-on-quarter (1,164 to 1,000), there are still opportunities in the market, particularly for domestic professionals with language and international experience.

“Despite the hit to investors during the third quarter, the Chinese middle-class remains strong with plenty of buying power,” says Holliday. “The banking sector is also maturing and we’re seeing many opportunities in the financial services sector in Shanghai. As things stand now, the market is moving in the right direction”.

For several years now, China had faced calls from its trading partners for it to devalue the yuan. Eventually China did devalue, which then came as a surprise to the markets. The fall in asset values was further compounded by the fact that Chinese markets are retail investor driven.

“China did what everyone wanted, but they did it on their own terms,” says Holliday. “Now that we’ve had the long awaited yuan devaluation and the multi-year bull rally has taken a beating, any further market drops will unlikely come as a such a big shock”.

Hong Kong

Based on the data from Q3 to Q4, the story from Hong Kong was one of stability. There was a 12% decrease in jobs on offer and an increase of 12% for professionals, much in line with what is expected during the end of the year. Out of all the Asian markets, Hong Kong tends to be the most correlated with international markets such as the UK and the USA, as a result of this the volatility in the mainland China market had little impact on Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong is still a pretty good place to be when it comes to the jobs market,” says Holliday. “There is a steady flow of opportunities and there are professionals willing to move. Probably more so than in some other Asian markets, due to the strong influence of international and western businesses who have a long history in the territory”.

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