APAC IT hiring outlook stays positive

Hiring sentiment healthy in region's IT industry compared to worldwide, as overall hiring forecast across globe reflects "cautious optimism" thanks to economic uncertainties, new report reveals.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Amid the overall "cautious optimism" worldwide in terms of hiring sentiment this year due to global economic uncertainties, the Asia-Pacific IT sector sees positive hiring forecasts which contrast to the flat or lowered projections from other segments such as banking, finance and engineering in the region.

According to global recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, while recruitment activities will still continue, organizations in Singapore will exercise prudence and caution especially in the first half of 2012 when hiring the right talent to add value to the company.

Andrea Ross, managing director of Robert Walters Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, presented the Singapore findings from its latest global salary survey at a media briefing here Tuesday. The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of last year.

For Singapore, IT hiring levels were expected to remain stable as the country undergoes further growth, the report said. Last year, recruitment was particularly buoyant among technology vendors, as well as IT consulting and telecommunications businesses.

IT hiring in banking and finance services and commerce industries such as pharmaceutical, energy, oil and gas, and electronics was moderate, riding on the back of "over-recruitment" from 2010, it added.

Still, Ross noted that the shadow of global economic uncertainties will undoubtedly impact headcount decisions among organizations here, which saw strong employment growth last year with consistent hiring across all industries. Such market sentiment also contributed to disparity between candidates' expected pay rises and actual increments offered by companies which fell below expectations.

Healthy appetite for IT hiring continues
Despite the conservative hiring sentiments on the whole, the outlook for IT jobs in Asia remained positive this year compared to rest of the world, the report said.

According to Pri Sandhu, manager of IT commerce division at Robert Walters Singapore, while companies "won't go crazy" with hiring IT staff, IT departments will definitely hire more manpower to prevent the budget from being reallocated to another department within the company.

Given the current market volatility, companies increasingly want to use or upgrade their existing IT resources to make their businesses more profitable, or run it in a cost-effective and lean way, Sandhu told ZDNet Asia on event sidelines. Hence, mission-critical IT projects or projects that were put on hold in previous years would now get budget sign-offs.

Also, companies were now investing more resources into building their online presence, as Web sites were increasingly "the first touch" for potential customers, he added.

Companies want their Web sites to be a transaction tool, and not just a commercial tool, whereby, customers are enticed to make purchases or orders through the Web site instead of simply browsing, he explained.

Such efforts to cut or stretch business costs translate into demand for IT professionals, particularly those with knowledge of data centers and infrastructure, software, cloud computing, and Web development, Sandhu noted.

IT security professionals will also be sought to ensure robust digital defenses, audits and regulatory compliance of IT systems, given the several incidences of security breaches and malware on organizations around the world, he added.

Talent crunch remains
But while the hiring outlook was fairly optimistic in Asia, there remains a shortage of skilled talent in the region, Sandhu said.

"The roles that are coming up, such as cloud and security, it's not generic anymore; they are very niche," he noted. "But, there aren't many [professionals] with this background or many who have upgraded their skills. Hence, there always is a gap and supply cannot match even a lowered demand."

The executive added that with such niche skillsets required, only those who fit the bill can command a premium. But due to economic anxieties, companies will likely offer prospective candidates lower increments.

Nonetheless, IT candidates today are "more commercially-savvy" and willing to settle for smaller pay rises because they also assess the "soft side" of job benefits, he said.

According to Sandhu, IT professionals no longer have the "backroom" mentality and are asking organizations more questions about training and overseas programs, or mobile working arrangements for work-life balance.

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