With a talent shortage combined with a brain drain, Hong Kong SAR employers in one regional study were eyeing SEA talent

In a study based on over 10,000 data points and in-depth interviews with founders across Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam (with some additional data from the Philippines), as well as surveys with “over 500 tech and non-tech talent working in startups” to uncover recruitment trends in the region, data suggests that Hong Kong-based employers currently faced with a talent shortage and a brain drain, particularly within the burgeoning tech sector, and this is likely to see an increased demand for skilled tech talent from the South-east Asia (SEA) job markets surveyed.

One finding from the data is that median salaries for tech roles surveyed — such as engineering, product and data — were 2.5 times higher in Hong Kong than in the SEA markets surveyed.

Also, median salaries for data concerning business development roles were three times higher in Hong Kong compared those in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Other findings

The data used showed that median salaries for senior software engineers with five to 10 years of experience were three times higher in Hong Kong compared to Indonesia and the Philippines, and 1.8x higher than in Vietnam. (The median salary in the time-specific data for Hong Kong software engineers was US$67,560 annually compared to US$36,870 for Vietnam and US$22,150 for Indonesia). Also:

    • Median salaries for product manager roles were two to three times higher in Hong Kong than for those in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
    • The median salary for a Hong Kong product manager was US$59,120 annually compared to US$33,000 for those from Vietnam, and US$14,040 from Indonesia.
    • A growing number of tech engineers from SEA trained in the United States were returning home and developing an engineering-centric culture in their home countries. These engineers who were surveyed, trained in places like Silicon Valley, know how to build systems at scale and have what it takes to build a product-led company. This trend was emerging in Vietnam, where talent was returning from sectors in addition to those in banking and finance.
    • Historically, there are cost advantages for Hong Kong-based employers hiring South-east Asia tech talent. In addition to that, the data indicates salary expectations for talent may become more manageable in 2023 compared to previous years.
    • The salary growth rate is forecast to be much lower than in previous years for tech salaries, from upwards of 30% to 10–20% per annum.
    • There will be more opportunities to source strong senior tech talent in SEA. For example, the quality of engineers in the Philippines was not much different from other markets and the report asserts that such engineers can be highly economical to hire and scale. Also, engineering talent in markets like Indonesia and Vietnam can command salaries that are “three times lower” than that in the more mature markets.

Said Puay Lim Yeo, Managing Director, Glints, which released its study findings: “We are seeing an increasing demand from Hong Kong-based employers for talent from SEA. These employers are becoming more adaptable in building high-performing teams by hiring skilled talent from markets like Indonesia and Vietnam. By expanding their search beyond a hypercompetitive and costly local market, these employers can tap into a deep pool of skilled tech and tech-adjacent talent in a cost-efficient way.”