Key survey findings: (Source: Michael Page 2016 South East Asia Salary & Employment Outlook)

  • Across the Southeast Asia (SEA) region, when it comes to retaining talent, the top three motivators are salary (55%), career progression (49%), and global career opportunities (25%). For Malaysia, salary and career progression were also the top two motivators at 64% and 57% respectively, while recognition and benefits (55%) came in third.
  • 48% of Malaysians change jobs to increase their salary, with 37% of respondents expecting increases of 6-10% in the coming year
  • Malaysian businesses are looking for top talent in manufacturing (31%) and logistics (22%) sectors

Malaysia, 29th October 2015: The job market in Malaysia continues to remain upbeat, according to Michael Page’s 2016 South East Asia Salary & Employment outlook. Most sectors struggle with staff retention as employees compete for talent, with multiple opportunities available to strong candidates. Local businesses are emulating multinational companies (MNCs) by offering more non-financial benefits such as a clear career path and building a stronger company culture to encourage greater loyalty.

At one end of the spectrum is the region’s most developed economy, Singapore, where growth is modest, albeit steady, and salary inflation and staff turnover are relatively low compared to other ASEAN countries. At the other end are markets like Indonesia, where a young population and a burgeoning middle class mean that some industries are growing at breakneck pace. That brings with it sometimes large increases in salary and high turnover of staff as companies compete for talent.

Anthony Thompson, Regional Managing Director, Greater China & South East Asia, PageGroup, said, “Despite pressures such as political uncertainty and the persistent low oil prices, South East Asia as a region continues on its path of strong growth, with recruitment ongoing across almost all sectors. Professional services such as human resources are increasingly being seen as a critical part of the business to deal with high staff turnover. The current market demands candidates with digital skills and regional experience as an increasing number of businesses expand their business across borders.”

Malaysia benefits as an increasing number of regional and global positions are being moved to Malaysia to reduce costs. As the country increasingly seeks to become a manufacturing and logistics hub, demand for talent with these appropriate skills increases. On the other hand, the construction industry seems set to cool as large numbers of properties are completed, possibly leading to a shift in demand towards management and maintenance to handle the new buildings coming on stream.

Paul Cooper, Managing Director, Malaysia and Thailand, Michael Page, said, “We have observed an increase in hiring on a national basis rather than just Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding area. While Kuala Lumpur remains dominant, we’re seeing key decisions and investment being made in other parts of the country.”

The Malaysian government continues in its effort to encourage Malaysians working overseas to return home, through tax incentive schemes and the Returning Expert Programme. However, most Malaysian expatriates are attracted by the opportunities and lifestyle abroad, with the weak ringgit further dampening salaries if they return.

2015 is the year where the region’s economies are due to be integrated into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), encouraging free flow of trade, investment and people among the 10 member states. With this comes access to a wider pool of talent, but response thus far has been lukewarm, with approximately a third (36%) of the respondents saying they have yet to decide or were not interested in hiring from other countries.

The Michael Page South East Asia 2016 Salary & Employment Outlook is a report based on survey findings of more than 850 employers across a range of industry sectors in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Insights drawn from a series of roundtable discussions with employers further enriched the report. The report aims to provide an overview on market and employment conditions, wages, and an outlook across the different sectors. The report can be viewed in full here.