Recruitment trends and market updates in Asia

At the beginning of each year, we prepare our Asia Salary Snapshot, a salary guide for professionals in Asia that covers market trends in recruitment in Asia and expected salaries for different positions within the industries that we cover: Sales and Marketing, Human Resources and Administration, Banking and Financial Services, Temporary and Contract, Industrial, Retail and FMCG

Now that we are well into the second half of 2017, we wanted to reflect on the recruitment market for each of these sectors for H1 and draw comparisons to 2016. Please see below a breakdown by region and industry.

We hope you find the following information useful and if you require any further information on these sectors or would like to discuss your talent acquisitions strategy please do not hesitate to contact us to speak to one of our award-winning recruitment specialists in Asia.



recruitment-trends-market-updates-asia-2.jpgHong Kong

Sales & Marketing

Our Sales and Marketing recruitment team in Hong Kong has noted that the job flow in the first half of 2017 has increased by around 10% compared with the same period of 2016. Although the first five months of the year were rather quiet, this picked up significantly in the last month of H1 2017.

The hot areas for recruitment in Sales & Marketing have been in Operations and Digital Marketing. The lifestyle sector has also seen a number of new openings, particularly in Relationship Management and Key Account Management, in order to cope with the change of spending habits from traditional luxury products towards lifestyle products.

Candidates have generally been quite cautious over the past six months and have not been feeling particularly positive about making moves in this market, and thus they are looking to remain in more stable environments.

Our prediction for the second half of 2017 is that the market will continue to pick up with increased job flow across different sectors of the industry. However, we believe candidates will continue to remain relatively conservative, which may result in a shortage of candidates. This is the biggest challenge this year across all sectors, particularly the retail and luxury sector. As a result of the slow job market last year, candidates remain reluctant to move jobs, despite the market picking up. In addition to this, we are also seeing clients with tighter budgets, which could also be affecting candidates’ willingness to move.

Human Resources & Administration

Job flow across the Human Resources and Administration sector in Hong Kong has been quieter in comparison to H1 2016, particularly in the early part of Q1. This is primarily due to economic instability, employees being less open to change and also employers being more hesitant to hire support functions. With Chinese New Year being earlier than previous years, this also effected the normal Q1 increase in hiring.

This year to date, there seems to have been a greater need for junior positions over high-paying secretarial roles compared to last year. We are, however, still seeing the same challenges as before with regards to junior positions, where employers want top quality candidates for lower salaries than the traditional market rate offered. This has resulted in more situations where candidates are rejecting offers, or undergoing buy-back situations with their current employers as the push factors aren’t outweighing the pull factors

Meanwhile, experienced Human Resources candidates in Hong Kong have been finding it difficult to look for new roles, as the job market is relatively quiet. Well-remunerated staff are looking to be paid more for less work, which employers are not agreeing to. Younger candidates are expecting higher increments when making a job move and qualified candidates have been willing to reject offers in the hope that something better will be offered at a later date.

We have noticed that employers have been requesting immediately available candidates more often than in previous years. There have been many occasions when employers have been moving quickly on initial rounds of interviews, only to slam the breaks at the final stages, seemingly buying time for preferred internal referrals or potential internal candidates to take the roles. The main concern for these employers may be budget constraints for support or non-revenue-generating functions. We have also seen some more senior roles being made redundant as organisations continue to look to reduce costs.

We predict that the second half of the year will follow the same trend as Q2, picking up from what we saw in Q1, although this may possibly be slower compared with H2 2016.

Banking & Financial Services

Overall, the job flow within the Banking and Financial services market in Hong Kong has been down year on year, as financial institutions remain focused on cost reduction to offset the increased regulatory costs of doing business. We have seen redundancies/retrenchments of mid-level management, as firms look to take out an expensive layer of management and promote from within. We have seen fewer VP/Director level roles than we have in the past few years, with organisations preferring to hire top quality AVPs who can grow into the VPs of the future. Middle office roles within compliance (especially KYC), internal audit and technology remain in demand, and we have seen more and more emphasis on quant related roles and candidates with programming experience in C++, R and Python.

Within the front office, however, there has been momentum gained at the back end of 2016, which has spilled over into 2017 and helped fuel hires across the Investment Banking departments, Corporate Banking and Private Equity markets in H1. Although the M&A mandates have declined somewhat, there has been a big push for experienced DCM and ECM candidates across the market, with the latter being primarily in Chinese Investment Banks. The Chinese Investment Banks are now occupying a number of the top spots on the league tables, so we expect to see more hires from these firms for the remainder of the year.

Within the Asset Management space, more and more organisations are restructuring to focus on passive strategies, rather than active strategies and this has changed their focus from a hiring perspective. We expect this to continue, but many Portfolio Managers believe that the active approach will return in the natural business cycle over the next few years, which again will drive changes within the market.

Temporary & Contract

The job flow for Temporary and Contract recruitment in Hong Kong in the first half of 2017 has remained steady in comparison with H1 2016. Last year started off more active and quietened down in Q2, whereas in 2017, we have seen the opposite, with roles picking up in Q2 and forecast to be busier still in Q3.

The hot areas for recruitment in 2017 so far continue to be in compliance, KYC and onboarding, although these areas are not quite as active as they were in 2016. We have also seen an increase in junior accounting and marketing roles in the commercial sectors in 2017.

Although candidates do think the market is picking up, they are still somewhat hesitant to change jobs, as they remain concerned about the contract duration, since the market situation is still not very active. For secretarial or administrative functions, temp jobs are still not as active as they were over the past few years, which we would put down to cost factors.

In the second half of 2017, we predict that there might be lower temporary to permanent conversion rates than in 2016, as companies still struggle to obtain new permanent headcount. Roles tend to be mainly on six-month rolling contracts and we also predict that maternity leave cover will continue to be active in H2 2017.


Job flow in the Macau market is down by about 25% compared with the first half of 2016. This is largely due to the opening of both The Parisian and the Wynn Palace and thus the recruitment spiking in H1 2016.

Hot areas for recruitment in Macau this year to date have been project work within beauty areas and new site openings in existing sites, as well as some new business expansion, especially in high street retail, albeit at a slower pace than in 2016.

Candidates are generally being very cautious in Macau and the level of movement has rapidly decreased this year. Within the hospitality sector, a lot of candidates seem to be waiting for the expected openings of five new hotels planned for later this year and H1 2018.

The Macau market has been exceptionally challenging this year, with clients taking their time over hiring and internal recruitment processes. The planned and delayed openings of The Macau Roosevelt and MGM National Harbor (opening in Q3 and Q4 2017 respectively) and The 13, Prometheus and Lisboa Palace (planned for 2018) reflects the challenging state, but Macau still promises to be thriving in the second half of the year, as recruitment starts for the abovementioned 2018 openings. Hospitality roles in general are on the rise, but expectations regarding the quality of candidates has also been significantly increased with top quality candidates in demand.



The job market for retail recruitment in China remains fairly similar for H1 2017 compared to the same period of last year, the only difference being that some local clients have been communicating a strong demand for bilingual candidates.

The hot areas for recruitment so far this year have been senior operational roles, particularly senior marketing roles with IT knowledge – positions such as e-commerce and digital marketing.

Candidates have been actively moving from tier-one cities to tier-two or -three cities in 2017, the main reason being that the government is trying to attract more foreign investors to developing cities.

In the latter half of this year, we predict that the market will remain steady, but employers will continue to be highly selective when recruiting candidates for frontline sales. The demand for experienced e-commerce and digital marketing candidates will continue to drive the marketplace.


The job flow for industrial recruitment in China has been similar in the first half of 2017 compared to 2016, where most job opening positions have been replacements as opposed to newly created roles.

Areas that tend to be most in demand are new energy, such as new energy automobiles or lightweight automobiles.

Candidates this year are open to changing jobs, provided there is a good opportunity. Over three quarters of the industrial candidates that we have met focus mainly on salary and benefits, whilst almost 50% pay more attention to work-life balance and approximately half of all our industrial candidates are looking for a company with a long-term strategy. 

Looking ahead at the rest of the year, we predict that Q3 will be more active and Q4 will be quieter. We also predict that BD, sales and product management functions will be the highest priority for our clients. In terms of challenges, we predict that counteroffers will be the major challenge, as, in general, offers that are made to candidates are coming in under their expectations.

We expect that the trend for MNC manufacturers to move from the suburbs of Shanghai and Beijing to tier-two or tier-three cities will continue.  Therefore, the challenges will remain for employers to either relocate experienced staff, or source from the local markets where the talent pool will be reduced. We expect to see the Yangtze River Delta and tier-two or -three cities such as Wuxi, Changshu, Changzhou, Kunshan, Taicang and Yangzhou to be the key recruitment areas for operation functions.


With regards to consumer recruitment in China, the job flow has remained pretty similar to H1 2016, without a great deal of fluctuation.

Sales and marketing functions continue to be in high demand, with a particular focus on e-commerce and digital marketing roles.

Candidates are generally quite conservative when considering job moves.

For the second half of 2017, we predict that the areas of e-commerce and digital roles within the lifestyle consumer areas will be the hottest, as these organisations are looking to capitalise on the continued growth in the wealth of the marketplace and the emphasis on lifestyle is continuing.


Banking & Finance / Temporary & Contract

The job flow within the Banking and Finance recruitment sector in Singapore for the first half of 2017 has increased slightly in comparison with H1 2016. There was a good job flow in Q2 2016, however it started to decline throughout Q3 and Q4. In 2017 however, the job flow in Q1 was stable and picked up further in Q2, especially on the contracting side. We predict that the job flow will remain stable throughout Q3 and slow down in Q4.

The areas in which recruitment has been strong in 2017 include KYC, client onboarding, KYC/AML and client services. There has also been an increase in the demand for roles in project management, finance and audit.

Although recruitment has picked up over the first half of 2017, several financial organisations including investment banks have been reducing headcount as well as moving operations to other locations. Candidates, both employed and unemployed, who are looking out in the market are well aware of these changes and their priorities are for positions within stable firms.

Candidates who are currently in contract positions remain eager to move to permanent positions, however, we have seen a trend for candidates in permanent positions becoming more open to moving to a contract role if they feel there is too much change within their current organisation and prospects for permanent conversions within their new firm.

As banks cut down on headcount, there is a simultaneous increase in temporary and contract hiring in Singapore. However, the tenure for contracts has reduced somewhat and we are seeing more four to five-month contracts, rather than six to nine or 12-month contracts. Candidates who are currently in contract positions are seeking conversions and these, as well as extensions, have increased year on year.

In the second half of 2017, we predict that there will be more temporary and contract hires than permanent hires as compared to 2016, as financial organisations continue to look towards a more flexible workforce. Temp to perm conversions might also increase once operations have stabilised.


It is nothing new that the retail industry in Singapore is suffering in the face of changing consumer behaviour, but some brands not only survived but have revamped and new brands are entering the market. Muji introduced its first café-retail duo store in 2015 and just last month (July 2017), they opened their first flagship store at Plaza Singapura which houses a 70-seater dining area! Exciting news is that luxury brands such as Moynat and Nirav Modi are opening their very first boutiques in Singapore and renowned British retailer, WHSmith is set to open 10 stores in Singapore’s Changi Airport over the next six months!

This being said, talent acquisition and retention remains a real challenge, with retailers eager to bring on the best staff in the market with the right sales acumen for a tougher market.

Human Resources

In Singapore, generally job flow across the Human Resources sector has been slower compared to first half of 2016. Due to financial instability, companies in Singapore are not expanding their headcount in the Human Resources department. However, with business needs, there are many organisations looking to hire contract Human Resources professionals for project related work. Contracting staffing offers greater flexibility in terms of headcount and budget for organisations.

It has been challenging for experienced senior Human Resources professionals to seek new opportunities in Singapore, as companies have tight budget constraints and are cautious about investing in experienced hires. In the second half of 2017, we foresee that Human Resource roles will be picking up for senior positions in the Singapore market, as the market has stabilised and organisations look to ensure that their HR functions are ready for 2018.

If you are looking to make changes to your organisation and hire the right talent to grow your business, or if you are a job seeker looking for your next career move, please do not hesitate to contact us and speak to one of our award-winning recruitment specialists in Asia.