More jobs, higher salaries for Asia this quarter

update Permanent employment forecast in China and Hong Kong will be at their highest levels in four years, according to a new Hudson report.

update The job outlook for countries across Asia is rosy for the last quarter of this year, as a new study reveals over 50 percent of companies expect to increase employment and salaries.

Conducted in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan by human resources agency Hudson, the survey reflected the inputs of over 2,300 decision makers from organizations of various sizes in all major industry sectors.

According to the report, employment prospects appeared to be the most promising in China, where 68 percent of executives--the highest since 1998--indicated that they expect an increase in staffing. This also represents a 5-percent increase over the last quarter.

In Hong Kong, 52 percent of the respondents expect to hire more personnel this quarter. This figure is the nation's highest since the first quarter of 2001.

Both Japan and Singapore are expected to experience a slight dip in hiring, compared to the previous quarter, where the percentage of executives expecting to increase headcount at 58 percent and 47 percent, respectively. Singapore's projected employment will be spurred by growing demand in the consumer market sector, according to Hudson.

The outlook for the IT and telecommunications sectors in North Asia is also positive. Seventy percent of respondents in China's IT and telecommunications sector expressed optimism in headcount growth, while 63 percent of their Japanese counterparts also expect to increase hiring.

Main employment opportunities for the four countries are expected to be in sales, which account for over 28 percent of projected hiring. Demand is also strong for specialists in fields such as engineering, operations and technical areas, particularly in China, Japan and Singapore.

Hudson's latest report also revealed higher demand for IT professionals in Singapore compared to the other three countries. In May, recruitment company DP Search had noted that several technology companies in Singapore were hiring. In that report, IT employment was more active in industries such as banking.

Employees are also expecting to see a jump in their salaries over the next 12 months, the Hudson study found. China takes the lead in the upward salary forecast, with 83 percent of respondents anticipating wage increases over the next 12 months. In fact, 54 percent expect increases of at least 5 percent.

This optimism is also apparent in Hong Kong where 83 percent of executives predict higher salaries over the next year, compared to 62 percent a year ago. In Singapore, 72 percent are expecting to see salary increases, and 25 percent expect wage increases of between 5 and 15 percent. Japanese companies are a less optimistic lot, where only 46 percent predicted an increase in salaries.

Staff recruitment and retention a challenge
Staff turnover in the four countries over the past year were significant, with the highest level recorded in Singapore. Over 90 percent of companies in the country reported losing staff over the last 12 months.

Japan, bolstered by a strengthening economy, recorded the lowest staff turnover rate where 74 percent of executives lost staff in the last 12 months.

Across China, Hong Kong and Singapore, the media/PR/advertising sector faced the same challenge of staff turnover, while in Japan the banking and IT and telecommunications sectors bore the brunt of employee turnover.

Respondents in Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore blamed staff poaching as the primary factor affecting their staff turnover rate, though employees in China are mainly leaving their jobs because of limited career progression.

Companies in the four countries named staff recruitment and retention as the top two human resource challenges for the year ahead. Across the four markets, 33 percent of respondents indicated that hiring was the most pressing issue, while 31 percent chose staff retention as their biggest challenge. The latter was more significant for the Hong Kong, Japanese and Singapore markets.