Amid a global talent crunch, what can the salary data of two regional business hubs tell us about the future workplace?

According to two job market reports for Hong Kong and Singapore by IT-specific recruitment firm GRIT, the three best paying jobs this year were in the Crypto, Blockchain and Web 3.0 industries (Hong Kong) and Data security, Senior Penetration/Vulnerability testing, and Chief Information Security Officer (Singapore).

For the Hong Kong market, jobs data showed that the corporate demand driving salaries and benefits up for the various tech roles was unique to the remote-based working environment in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, hinging heavily on the mainland’s zero-COVID stance.

In the case of Singapore, the country’s government initiatives to support digital transformation and innovation to mitigate its vulnerability to global socio-geopolitical, economic, ESG, gender equality and cybersecurity headwinds has culminated in the need for more tech security roles.

Even in the two disparate job markets, there are overlapping hiring trends due to similar exposure to the same global forces impacting tech talent.

Two tech talent-gap landscapes
Firstly, for Hong Kong’s top-paying tech jobs, the heads of Marketing in regular tech and digital industries had a salary range of HK$71,000–HK$167,000. Within the crypto, blockchain and Web 3.0 industries, the same role would be looking at a salary of HK$100,000–HK$200,000. Also:

    • Product Managers within the crypto, blockchain and Web 3.0 industries had a salary range of HK$60,000–HK$90,000
    • The seniority of roles also mattered: a Junior would be seeing half of that amount (salary range HK$22,000–HK$40,000), while a Senior commanded HK$50,000–HK$73,000
    • Various studies on remote-working trends showed the following impact for both employees and employers:
      1. Increased productivity
      2. Improved work-life balance
      3. Increased job satisfaction
      4. Improved job performance
      5. Increase in technology-related stress
      6. Increased costs in switching to remote-working (such as home office setup and associated costs and monthly bills)
      7. Increased blurring of boundaries between work and family life while at home
      8. Increased social isolation and diminished face-to-face interactions with colleagues
    • As a result of China’s approach to containing pandemic infections, organizations in Hong Kong during the reporting period created the highest increase in the need for tech talent: 35%. The number of job postings for tech jobs had increased by 20% year-on-year while demand for tech talent increased by 18% in Q1 2022.
    • To reduce the loss of talent to overseas organizations, 70% of employers in the SAR provided remote/hybrid work as a lure to prospects. Other key trends in this regard included:
      • Shifting to hybrid work policies and allowing for employees to work away from the office for at least 1 day a week
      • Providing upskilling opportunities to allow talent to keep pace with today’s fluid and dynamic times
      • Heeding the increasing pressure to improve workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion
    • In Hong Kong, those looking to draw the best possible starting salary in their job roles will need to stay in their roles and earn seniority within the same job function.
    • Across various job functions, the chiefs of the various departments commanded much higher salaries than those working in other industries, such as those with job titles like Head of Legal (HK$112,000–HK$169,000) and Head of Technology (HK$120,000–HK$200,000). According the report, the fast-growing nature of the latest digital technologies has caused employers to be more willing to pay higher salaries to develop their talent for contributing to the next step in organizational growth
    • Global 2021 cryptocurrency trends have seen Hong Kong step up as a key player, attracting some of the world’s largest crypto exchanges and also seeing the fast growth of local crypto and blockchain startups. This has added to the competition for specific tech talent.
    • GRIT’s CEO and founder Paul Endacott noted: “The need for Hong Kong to prioritize the search for tech talent is especially crucial to uphold its reputation of having a well-developed tech ecosystem. In addition to adopting new working models such as shifting to a hybrid or remote work environment, companies (there) need to turn to experts in smoothing recruitment processes and successfully recruit, train and retain their talent. At the same time, employees should keep upskilling to hone their skills and remain up-to-date with current market demands as they work to achieve their ideal job positions and salaries.”
Secondly, the Singapore situation can be summed up as follows:
    • In 2021, more Singapore talent worked remotely (average of 45%) compared to the global average of 34%
    • A meta-analysis of 22 high-quality studies in the country was conducted and remote working was found to improve:
      • productivity
      • employee retention
      • organizational commitment
      • job performance
    • Factors decreasing productivity amongst Singapore WFH employees includes:
      • Less ability to focus
      • Fewer meetings
      • Not having a proper work environment
    • Due to the current tech talent crunch faced in Singapore, firms there have been adopting new ways to meet the demand and salaries for tech talent to push their businesses forward, such as sourcing talent not just locally but internationally. Additionally, remote-working has been shown to improve productivity in Singapore by 13%, most contributed by the removal of commuting time required (93%).
    • Any employer’s inability to provide a conducive work environment could decrease productivity, as employees will find it difficult to focus on their work. Nonetheless, with 83% of respondents working remotely in Singapore in 2021 preferring a hybrid working environment, firms should consider a hybrid approach to most effectively drive workplace productivity
    • The top five tech skills, technologies and job roles in Singapore in the report were:
      • cybersecurity (57%)
      • data analysis (57%)
      • AI/Machine Learning (52%)
      • digital marketing (43%)
      • agile/scrum (43%)
    • The top 5 technologies employers in Singapore were adopting included:
      • big data analytics (49%)
      • IoT and connected devices (36%)
      • e-commerce and digital trade (35%)
      • AI (33%)
      • cloud computing (31%)
    • The top 5 job roles employers were seeking to fill in the reporting period included:
      • data analysis (57%)
      • digital marketing (57%)
      • big data (52%)
      • strategy and operations (43%)
      • digital strategy (43%)
    • The top three job roles employers in Singapore were looking to fill were: data analysis (57%), digital marketing (57%), and big data (52%).
    • Tech talent were receiving a higher starting pay in Singapore:
      • Junior consultants in the data security were starting at S$6,000, while a senior role in penetration and vulnerability testing was starting at S$6,500.
      • CISOs had a starting pay of S$8,500
    • Data analysis skills had been constantly highlighted as what employers were looking for. The demand for data scientists was exponentially increasing as more businesses were recognizing the importance of relying on digital data to make informed decisions. This could explain the high salary range (S$6,500–S$30,000 per month) of a principal data scientist.
    • As Singapore is witnessing an economic slowdown and general hiring freezes, the tech-talent crunch in the high tech sectors is being countered with generous salaries for data security and technological roles.

According to Endacott, employers can leverage technology to effectively facilitate tech-talent search by automating talent suggestions to the relevant requirements set by companies. This can reduce the hiring timeframe by two-thirds in the tech-talent crunch era: “In Singapore, the demand (for tech talent) has not waned in recent years, and many individuals are looking for better job prospects. This report helps to outline key details and information to equip them with a possible direction and trajectory for their next career or upskilling move,” said Endacott. 

Employers and job seekers in the rest of the region have their own endemic business and economic circumstances to contend with, so the salary reports of other countries can add only so much value to aid in planning for the future. However, four perennial aspects that should be always prioritized. These aspects could be part of the underlying causes of the Great Tech Disappointment, whereby salaries and benefits are not always the main motivation for switching jobs or careers.

Here is a list of related articles that may help readers gain a wider overview of the current talent conundrum facing the world: