Singapore businesses remain bullish despite salary stagnation and skills shortages
Despite forecasted business growth in Singapore, salary stagnation persists amid skill shortages in the country. This is one of the key findings in the Hays Asia Salary Guide 2019, a report that highlights salary and recruiting trends based on responses from Hays Asia operating markets Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Singapore’s businesses saw a year of extended growth over the last 12 months, with 67 per cent of companies reporting increased business activity in 2018. On a similar scale, they also predict a continuation of heightened business activity in 2019, and as a result, nearly two in five of them (38 per cent) foresee an augmentation of permanent staff levels in the coming year. Furthermore, 45 per cent of those surveyed expect the local economy to be static, an improvement from the 58 per cent with the same sentiment in the survey the year before. Those predicting the economy to improve also increased, from 28 per cent last year to 36 per cent this year.

Employers note that more salaries remained stagnant in 2018, compared to the year before. Almost one in five (19 per cent) of employers express that they do not foresee giving a salary increment to their employees over the next 12 months. Those who plan on giving salary increments will mostly be increasing salaries ‘by up to three per cent’, followed by an increment of ‘above three per cent but less than or equal to six per cent’ and ‘above six per cent but less than or equal to ten per cent’.

More than half of employees interviewed (57 per cent) state that they are ‘satisfied’ with their current remuneration packages, an improvement from the 46 per cent who felt the same in the previous year. However, only four per cent of respondents claim to be ‘very satisfied’. “It is clear that while positivity surrounding salaries is up, there is still room for improvement,” says Grant Torrens, Regional Director of Hays Singapore. “As more and more employees leave mostly due to the allure of better salary or benefit packages, companies looking to retain adept employees should look to improve satisfaction rates where remuneration is concerned.”

Benefits and bonuses
Over the past year, the number of companies guaranteeing bonuses to all staff maintained at 67 per cent. However, there is a slight decrease (six per cent) in the number of employers giving benefits in addition to financial incentives. The most common forms of additional benefits are health and medical provisions, health and wellness programmes, and car or car allowance.

Skills Shortages
Employers in Singapore are concerned that skills shortages may affect the running of their operations. Most of those interviewed expect a deficit of required talent to hamper the effective operation of businesses in 2019, and 57 per cent of employers confirm that productivity has been negatively impacted in the past year.
In addition, confidence in the ability to recruit the skills required to meet organisational needs in the coming year is down, with 39 per cent ‘not very confident’ compared to 30 per cent who had previously said the same.

Areas of greatest skills shortages
Most Singapore employers state that the most sought-after skills are hard skills (65 per cent) over soft skills (35 per cent). Of the former, project management, statistical analysis and data mining, and computer skills are the areas of greatest demand. Of soft skills, problem solving, team working, and verbal communication were most coveted by employers.

The areas in which employers have the most difficulty in recruiting are as follows:
• Accountancy and finance: middle management (nominated by 21 per cent of employers)
• Sales: middle management (nominated by 21 per cent of employers)
• IT: middle management (nominated by 20 per cent of employers)
• Sales: entry level up to middle management (nominated by 19 per cent of employers)
• IT: entry level up to middle management (nominated by 19 per cent of employers)
• Accountancy and finance: entry level up to middle management (nominated by 13 per cent of employers)

Source: Hays