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Market Insights SEEK Employment trends 7 job market trends in Southeast Asia every recruiter must know
7 job market trends in Southeast Asia every recruiter must know

7 job market trends in Southeast Asia every recruiter must know


We are now entering the second quarter of the year, and soon, 2018 will be half a year gone. As recruiters, it is important to keep up with the latest trends in the job market in order to compete in the race for talent. However, many recruiters are simply just too caught up with their daily tasks that they are unable to set aside time to pay attention to some of these important emerging trends.

Fortunately, thanks to the 2018 Job outlook & salary survey conducted by and jobsDB, recruiters can now easily take note on some of the important job market trends that will help them better prepare themselves for the remaining year. The survey, where a total of 4,692 candidates and 624 employers participated from seven countries, identified seven interesting job market trends that every recruiter must know for the year 2018.


1. Overall hiring outlook

The overall hiring trend in Asia is expected to be positive, with 65% employers stating that they will either increase or maintain their hiring rate. In addition, “hiring freeze” was observed at only 7% while 28% will hire to replace essential positions only, further affirming the growing momentum in hiring activity in the region.

For some of these Asian economies, the key drivers of this optimistic sentiment are newly enacted tax reform laws that will boost consumer spending, thereby helping the expansion of local businesses, the rise of start-ups, the development of the manufacturing and industrial sectors, entry of foreign companies that will lead to job creation and the need for diversified skills.

2. Hiring season

The first quarter of 2018 is forecasted to be the peak hiring season after which the hiring momentum will gradually slow down throughout the year, and levelling off thereafter. The most active month of the year is March with 16% of employers surveyed indicating their preference to hire for this month, likely due to many employees only quitting their previous positions after receiving their thirteenth- or fourteenth-month bonuses, which are usually paid in January.

Another possible reason for the surge in hiring is because many employees in Asia will only resign after the Lunar New Year celebration, generally celebrated in February. It has become a popular culture for Asian employees to take on a new career upon entering a new year.

Interestingly, the survey also projected June (11%) to be another employers’ favourite month for hiring. This could be due to the influx of fresh graduates as graduation month for some universities happens in June. The surge could also be contributed by some employees leaving after receiving their mid-year bonuses.

Hiring season is said to be the slowest towards the fourth quarter of 2018 with only 5% of employers expressing their plans to hire in October and 4% in both November and December months. This is impacted by the year-end holiday season as many applicants are away and employers are left with very little options when it comes to looking for the right talent.

3. Preferred job hunting/recruiting channels

According to a report by Google and Temasek, Southeast Asia has the third largest number of Internet users in the world. As of December 2017, it has 330 million Internet users and is poised to be a leader in mobile Internet usage in 2018, therefore, it is not surprising that online job boards are the most preferred job-hunting channel for both candidates (36%) and hirers (52%).

In fact, modern online job boards are so technologically advance that they allow for the targeting of a specific profile – which works in favour of recruiters as you are then able to target potential candidates who can fit your employee persona. Moreover, some of these online job boards have the ability to personalise messages to target audiences from specific industry/background, making it a powerful tool for recruiters to boost their recruitment efforts, targeting not just the active candidates but the passive ones as well.

The usage of referrals for candidates’ job hunting activities (15%) and as recruiting channels for hirers (15%) is also one of the top 3 preferred channels. In addition, the usage of online company career websites is also a favourite among candidates and hirers with 18% of candidates using online company career websites to look for a job while 11% of employers indicated that they prefer to use online company career websites to recruit.

4. Candidates’ job hunting behaviour

In line with the growing Internet usage across the region, candidates are actively using online job portals to monitor and scan the job market when applying for jobs. The survey revealed that the online application mode is the highest in Thailand with 6.02 point scale of the candidates surveyed likely to use online job portals to apply for new job opportunities based on a 7 point scale where 1 was strongly disagree, while the scale of 4 is neutral and the scale of 7 is strongly agree.

The survey concluded that most candidates are planning to leave their current job / employer. With an average scale of 5.70 and 5.51 respectively, all seven countries surveyed revealed that most candidates are actively monitoring the job market and actively applying to new job opportunities. Even for those who are not actively applying, at an average scale of 4.30 across all seven countries, these candidates are also open to changing their careers if these job opportunities are presented to them. Only a small number of candidates (an average of 3.41) indicated that they have no plans of leaving their current job / employer in the coming year.

5. Top industries that are hiring

Recruiters should take note of industries that are hiring as it indicates that these industries are either experiencing rapid growth or facing huge talent shortages. Some of the top industries that are actively hiring across the region are banking and finance, manufacturing, healthcare and IT-related services. These are then followed closely by industries such as trading and distribution, construction and engineering, education, retail, merchandise and wholesale industries.

In recent years, the countries surveyed have witnessed an influx of foreign investment, particularly from fast-growing Chinese companies into countries such as Hong Kong, fuelling many of these top industries and hiring boom. IT professionals are also highly sought after as more and more companies become highly data-driven, and the demand for companies to modernise their business operations and systems increases.

According to historical job advertisement volume by and JobsDB, hiring in the manufacturing industry is also on the rise as more and more manufacturers are entering Southeast Asia due to lower costs, rising domestic consumption and improvement in infrastructure. The region is also on the verge of digital transformation where consumers are slowly gravitating toward digital banking and financial services, further spurring the demand for hires for the IT industry, banking and financial sectors.

Interestingly, Singapore is the only country that ranked healthcare as its top industry that is actively hiring. This is because the country is also known as a world-class medical centre. Moreover, Singapore’s aging population is rising rather rapidly, therefore the demand for healthcare professionals will continue to rise over the years. Singapore’s hires in its education sector is also on a rise as it is one of the top destination for those who are furthering their studies.

Malaysia is seeing strong hiring for industries such as manufacturing, banking and financial sector and construction / engineering industry. This is largely due to the country’s growing expansion in its manufacturing industry after a growth of 5.7% was recorded in 2017, supported by the rising demand on the transformation of the country's financial sector. Malaysia’s construction industry will also continue to see higher hiring due to many ongoing high-value projects and government rail-related projects.

Countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines recorded retail, general wholesale and merchandise as their top key industries that are hiring. This is likely due to the fact that traditional brick and mortar retail shops are still surviving as e-commerce has yet to take a strong foothold in these economies.

6. Most sought-after job specialisation

Across the region, historical job advertisement volume by and JobsDB revealed high demand for job specialisation such as sales & marketing, business development, finance or general cost accounting, customer service and administrative support. This trend is likely to continue for the rest of 2018.

Other job specialisations that are highly sought-after are jobs such as admin and HR, IT and engineering. IT will remain as one of the most sought-after job specialisation in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines as digital transformation continues to be a hot trend in the region. For HR job specialisation, there will be a high demand for HR professionals who are business-savvy in Hong Kong and Thailand.

7. Highest growing industries in Asia for 2017

Historical job advertisement volume of and JobsDB revealed how much postings in various industries have grown last year. High growth rate suggests expansions, or maybe the onset of an uptrend in the business cycle of specific industries. Catching the rise of such uptrends help recruiters stay ahead of the curve, while knowing which industries are growing quickly allow recruiters to optimise their resources in talent acquisition.

In Indonesia and Singapore, recruiters need to keep an eye on jobs involving accounting, audit and tax services as these are the industries that recorded 204% and 85% growth in job postings respectively.

Consulting seems to be more in demand in Malaysia as job postings grew 46% last year, outpacing other industries. Meanwhile, jobs relating to computer / IT lead in terms of job postings (+19%) in the Philippines.

Architecture, building and construction jobs will likely be seeing higher demand in Thailand as job postings surged 130% last year. As for Vietnam, demand appears to be focused on insurance, with job postings rising 74%.

Recruiting is not just about hiring the right talent. It is also about following the right trends and strategizing your recruitment plans well in advance. The recruitment game is constantly changing and evolving according to the latest trends and demands of the job market. As a recruiter, it gives you the competitive advantage if you understand the latest trends that can help you identify a number of opportunities to stay ahead of the game.

For more insights into candidates’ job hunting behaviours and employers’ recruiting trends, download the 2018 Job outlook & salary survey full report here.

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