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Asia – Job adverts up +5.6% with mixed results

15 August 2013

In its latest Asia Job Index, recruitment firm Robert Walters reported that job advertisement numbers rose +5.6% during Q2 2013, compared with a year ago. Quarter-on-quarter advertisement numbers increased +9.6%, despite the majority of countries reporting volume declined between May and June 2013.

Job advertising in Hong Kong grew +6.9% during the second quarter of 2013, compared with the same period last year. The majority of positions were for current roles where businesses are looking to attract talent, rather than create new positions. The retail sector continued to benefit from Chinese tourism and advertised roles in merchandising and purchasing rose +16.2% from Q1 2013. Roles within accounting and finance also held, rising +16.2% from Q1 2013, as a result of demand for professionals to support on-going corporate regulatory compliance. 

Matthew Bennett, managing director of Robert Walters for Greater China, commented: “Although Chinese economic data suggests more modest growth, job adverts for Q2 2013 remained stable. Tourist levels remain strong, up +20% year-on-year; which is good news for the retail sector, and the rise in minimum wage is also having a positive impact in this area. People are a little more cautious to move jobs and companies are creating fewer new positions at this moment in time. That said, people are still looking to Asia to source their products and Hong Kong remains a key logistics hub.”

In Singapore the number of jobs advertised fell -21.8% during the second quarter of 2013, compared with the same period last year. Job adverts for positions within retail and sales were up +9.1%, reflecting a resilient consumer market where new positions continue to emerge. Singapore remains a key economic centre for Southeast Asia and a number of new companies have set up businesses, particularly across the technology, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), and automotive sectors.  

Toby Fowlston, managing director of Robert Walters for Singapore, commented: “Whilst the investment banking sector in Singapore is seeking some cost challenges, other sectors are growing and we have been working with a number of companies who are setting up in Singapore. The Asia Job Index figures, which include job advertising across all levels of seniority, are similar to what we experienced in 2011 with a decrease in comparison to Q2 2012. However, the figures we see at Robert Walters are geared towards white collar employment and they show a consistent level of employment opportunity with quarter-on-quarter growth. In particularly, we have seen an increase in contract vacancies, which is becoming a more attractive option for both employers and employees.” 

Job advertisements in Malaysia were up +2.3% compared with Q2 2012. Advertised positions within retail servicing and sales grew, as Malaysia’s retail sector continued to develop. Malaysia’s developing real estate sector is generating demand for property management specialists, with demand for lawyers and compliance officers also rising. Increased market confidence has led to large companies increasing the size of their in-house legal teams along with local law firms seeking legal professionals.

Sally Raj, country manager for Robert Walters in Malaysia, commented: “Malaysia’s retail landscape continues to be a very exciting development for the country as consumer spending power grows along with the demand for global brands. International firms continue to see Malaysia as an attractive position for shared service centres, which is likely to be driving the demand for IT, operations, and accounting professionals to fill back office positions. In more recent times there has been a spoke in demand from the oil and gas industry for professionals from across the skills spectrum, particularly for skilled technical functions, and this is an exciting growth area for the region going forward.” 

Job advertising figures in China were up +7% during the second quarter of 2013, compared with a year ago. Advertised roles within merchandising and purchasing grew, an indication that the retail sector is still strong. Increasing advertisement numbers for IT managers and administrators correlates to the on-going growth of shared service centres in China. Roles for engineers and technicians grew against the previous quarter, as the growth of multi-national companies placing research and development centres in China continued to have an effect on the demand for talent. Levels of infrastructure development have also not fallen away.

Arthur Wang, managing director of Robert Walters in China, commented: “Market sentiment is a little more conservative, but the economy is evolving from pure manufacturing towards services, so we expect demand for talent within professional services to keep growing. Western economies appear to be fearful of a slowdown, but 7.5% GDP growth is still a big figure. Companies are still expanding aggressively into tier two and tier three cities and as a result the jobs market remains strong these locations. Multinationals are also establishing their shared service centres in the new cities, which correlate with the higher number of adverts for accounting, human resources, IT, and legal professionals.” 

Job advertisement increased +15.2% compared with the second quarter of 2012, however experienced a drop of -8.7% compared with the first quarter of 2013. Japanese businesses continue to display signs of improved confidence in the wake of the government’s on-going stimulus programme. Nearly all sectors experienced a drop in job advertising compared with the previous quarter. Retail servicing, the largest sector by volume, saw a -9.1% fall in advert numbers. Compared with the previous quarter, advert number for IT programmers and database administrators fell by -2.2%, and for creative and design professionals numbers dropped by -3.7%. 

David Swan, managing director for Robert Walters for Japan and South Korea, commented: “While we expected to see the seasonal drop in job adverts this quarter, overall numbers were more stable than we expected. While Retail was down -9.1%, well-positioned companies in the sector are seeking skilled professionals in order to support expansion strategies domestically and abroad. Japan is also seeing a rise in car manufacturing due in part to the positive market sentiment generated by business expansion plans and the government’s anticipated fiscal policies. Digital industries are also robust and demand for graphic designers has increased. The financial services sector is still operating at modest levels but institutions are hiring, although primarily replacing talent rather than building their headcount numbers.”

Job advertisement numbers in South Korea plummeted -15.8% during the second quarter compared with last year. Figures were also down compared with the previous quarter, falling by -2.2%. Advertising for roles within the consumer and retail sectors rose by +4.6%, mainly due to attrition and up-skilling as competitors within the retail space sought to gain market share from each other. Finance remained a stagnant market with job adverts down -5.5% quarter-on-quarter, reflecting the difficulties in the market and lower levels of corporate activity, this trend also correlated to the -6.6% fall in advertised roles for legal professionals.

Anthony Modrich, country manager for Robert Walters in South Korea, commented: “The reduction in job adverts is a reflection of the demand from domestic Korean companies, with international firms advertising job roles at a level consistent to last year. These hires mainly related to up-skilling and natural attrition rather than building numbers. The small offices of international firms are the ones that are really driving the activity we are seeing.” 


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