Staffing intentions among Asian businesses have leaped significantly over the past 12 months – to the extent that half of employers across Hong Kong, Singapore and China expect to take on extra staff in 2018.

Last year, just 35 per cent of businesses surveyed for Links International’s Asia Salary Snapshot said they anticipated their employee numbers would increase in the following 12 months.

The increased optimism, reported in a survey of more than 1,000 employers and candidates, comes in defiance of a minor slowdown in economic growth across major Asian markets.

Employers reported greater use of overtime – 33 per cent saw it increase last year, compared to 27 per cent a year earlier – and were more likely to make use of flexible staffing methods, including part-time working, job sharing and contractors, which might indicate an inability to find sufficient full-time talent.

Overall, barely more than half (54 per cent) of new hires said they were satisfied with the onboarding experience at their company, a figure that rose just 1 per cent last year.

On pay, China outstripped the market in 2017, with 60 per cent of all employees receiving a salary increase of more than 3 per cent. That will increase to 67 per cent of staff in China this year, but salaries will pick up significantly in both Hong Kong and Singapore, said the survey.

The average pay rise in both locations will be around 4 per cent; in Hong Kong, 11 per cent of staff will receive an additional 10 per cent or more, and only 9 per cent of Singaporeans will receive no pay rise at all.

The survey held mixed news for HR professionals considering their own career prospects. In Hong Kong, multinational companies’ focus on building a strong employee value proposition (EVP) has driven demand for strategic HR thinking, found Links International, and L&D and HR analytics skills were reported to be in strong demand. Salaries for HR professionals in Hong Kong will increase by between 3 and 6 per cent this year, it predicted, with the biggest rises on offer in banking and finance.

In Singapore, however, demand for HR skills was sluggish for much of 2017, picking up only towards the end of the year. The most significant increase in hiring was among temporary and short term contract positions.

The news came as Singapore reported a decline in overall employment for the first time since 2003. The Ministry of Manpower said 10,700 fewer people were employed in the city state last year compared to 2016; although employment of local nationals improved significantly, there was a fall of more than 30,000 in the number of foreign staff.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary general Patrick Tay attributed this largely to layoffs in the marine and construction sectors, and said he expected “pockets of layoffs due to technological and digital disruption with companies and businesses re-examining their strategies or focus” in the year ahead.

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