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Navigating Asian Job Markets Amidst Uncertainty: Insights from Hays

Economic uncertainty has rocked Asian countries in COVID-19’s wake, and clients and candidates hesitate to act. Global tensions, automation concerns, skills shortages, and slower economic growth shape this situation. Financial institutions are also under pressure to control costs. Despite this, there are in-demand roles for accounting and finance professionals across Asia. 

A stalemate could endanger economic growth, as hiring managers are reluctant to rush hiring. And candidates take a cautious approach. With 43% of accounting and finance workers open to opportunities, passive candidates hold the key.

To help companies and candidates navigate current challenges, professional recruitment group Hays has surveyed 8,525 skilled professionals from Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan for insight into their recruitment plans.

The 2024 Hays Asia Salary Guide contains salary and sector overviews to help hiring managers see regional recruitment trends and skills gaps. Professionals can discover in-demand roles and learn how to future-proof their careers.

This research comes at a crucial time when the world of work is changing. Professionals seek flexible workplaces and meaningful careers, and businesses rethink their priorities as they search for talent.

Tom Osborne, Managing Director of Hays Southeast Asia, explains, “Success lies in how companies and their workplace navigate challenges and skill shortages. Building a talent pipeline and identifying skill gaps are vital for hiring managers who are not yet recruiting. It isn’t a time to be complacent. Technological changes are revolutionising the working world, and finance and accounting are no exception.”

Navigating Employer Challenges in Asia: Addressing the Skills Gap, Embracing Flexibility, and Future-Proofing Talent

Skills Gaps

Candidates with niche skills are limited. Professionals know this, with 56% of respondents saying they lack artificial intelligence (AI) skills to succeed in their roles. 

The nature of jobs and skills is changing across the Asia-Pacific region (APAC). Digital transformation forces organisations to identify skills gaps and future-proof their workforces. With the widening skill gap and the scarcity of skilled talent, employers need to address this. 

Sustainability is a growing priority for businesses across the region, leading to a demand for green skills. China is the world's second-largest issuer of green bonds, and banks now have sustainable finance departments. Professionals with sustainable finance or ESG expertise are in high demand. 

Contract Roles 

There is a consistent demand for accounting and finance contractors, as organisations don’t want or need to commit to permanent roles. Companies building up their teams are seeking alternative talent sources. 

What Employees Want

Today, there is a heightened focus on long-term professional growth and development as a driving force to find a new job. The Hays survey shows a desire to undertake new challenges has overtaken low-salary offerings as the main reason to leave. Osborne says: “More so than low salaries, professionals today are growing more cognisant of the need to futureproof themselves against disruptive changes. This extends to passive candidates, who will be more open to change when the right opportunity presents itself.” 

Hiring Manager Recommendations

As AI integration becomes widespread, skill development gaps will become more apparent. By addressing these gaps, workers can meet evolving accounting and finance needs. 

Hiring contract workers is a flexible solution to talent deficits. Contractors have specialised skills, are agile, and can fit into projects, addressing immediate skill shortages.

Many markets today are experiencing a skills shortage beyond AI. To embrace this change, skills-based hiring and training instead of relying on traditional qualifications can build future-ready teams. An organisation equipped for the future depends on how it approaches hiring and upskilling current employees.

Engaging talent through early discussions creates a conducive environment for professional growth and development, especially amidst an uncertain economic outlook. By facilitating internal transfers and openly sharing business challenges that may present growth opportunities, companies empower employees to take charge of their careers.

As recruitment cycles have lengthened, companies can miss out on top talent. Flexibility is pivotal to hiring decisions and establishing candidate pipelines. 

Talented professionals seek employers who accommodate their work preferences. Flexible working and career progression enhances candidate attraction.

Recommendations For Job Seekers 

Job seekers, passive candidates, and contractors need to future-proof their careers by: 

  • Staying informed about industry trends and technology. 
  • Networking.
  • Upskilling.

Secondments and internal transfers are a way to increase your skills. If your employer doesn’t provide upskilling in the areas you’re interested in, there is self-funded training as well as informal and unaccredited courses (many of them online-based). Look for courses relevant to your desired job title and/or sector. Books, podcasts, and articles on the subject you want to learn can also help you upskill.

Candidates with AI, cloud computing, machine learning (ML), and cybersecurity skills have bargaining power when negotiating salary, flexibility, and development opportunities. Proficiency in foreign languages is attractive for hiring managers.

Asia Snapshot: In-Demand Roles

Singapore 

In pursuit of innovation and technology, professionals with digital skills especially in data analytics, AI, cloud computing, and cybersecurity have a competitive edge. Compliance officers and those working in financial crime also remain in high demand. Candidates within these brackets are well-positioned to secure better opportunities and higher salaries.

  • Finance or Credit Analyst
  • Corporate Finance
  • Operational Risk Management 
  • Financial Crimes Compliance 
  • Anti-money Laundering 

Malaysia 

The accounting and finance sector displays resilience, credited to robust domestic demand, loan growth, and government measures. Accounting and finance professionals with soft skills and technical expertise remain in demand, especially in candidate-short areas like risk management, sustainability, corporate finance, and credit writing. 

  • Investment and Compliance Professional
  • ESG / Sustainability Professional
  • IPO Consultant 
  • SCC Transformation Lead
  • Internal Auditor 

Thailand

Candidates prioritise benefits beyond remuneration, including accessibility, flexibility, and non-financial perks. Bilingual English and Thai candidates are in demand. Mandarin or Japanese proficiency are popular in job adverts. While interview rounds occur, open positions close quickly as firms speed up their recruitment process for top talent. 

  • Corporate Finance 
  • Financial Planning & Analysis
  • Sustainability Accounting
  • Tax
  • Head of Finance 

Japan

Asset managers, hedge funds, private equity, and M&A firms are actively hiring to sustain growth demand. Skilled professionals with English proficiency are particularly valuable amidst a shortage of qualified candidates.

  • M&A Advisory
  • Compliance, Portfolio, Investment Managers
  • Credit Risk Analyst
  • Senior and Staff Accountants 
  • FP&A Manager and Analyst

 Hong Kong 

The Retail and Corporate Banking sector has remained robust and is actively seeking talent. Candidate shortages here result from overseas migrations and those leaving their careers during the pandemic. The Private Wealth Management sector similarly faces a talent shortage, particularly for experienced Relationship Managers skilled in cross-border asset diversification.  

  • Relationship Manager
  • Transaction Banking Product Specialist
  • Special Assets Management
  • Digital Transformation and Automation
  • Tax Manager and Director 
  • Credit Controller 

China

Multinational companies have slowed down their recruitment. Accounting jobs are in decline. Yet, its ultra-rich population increase has heightened the demand for private banking and wealth management professionals. 

In-demand roles 

  • CFO
  • Finance Director 
  • Asia-Pacific Compliance Officer and Auditor 
  • ESG/Green Finance Field Manager 
  • Private Banking 

Find more details on these trends and job opportunities in the Hays Asia Salary Guide. Click here to download. 

 

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