Days of double-digit pay rises may be over in Singapore, says recruitment specialist

The days of double-digit salary increases may be at an end here as Singapore employers look to reign in the strong wage growth of the last three years and offer non-financial incentives to attract and retain employees, says recruitment specialist Rob
The days of double-digit salary increases may be at an end here as Singapore employers look to reign in the strong wage growth of the last three years and offer non-financial incentives to attract and retain employees, says recruitment specialist Robert Half. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The days of double-digit salary increases may be at an end here as Singapore employers look to reign in the strong wage growth of the last three years and offer non-financial incentives to attract and retain employees, says recruitment specialist Robert Half.

According to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide for Singapore, employees in finance and accounting, banking and financial services and technology roles are more likely to receive wage rises below the 10 per cent or more many positions commanded in previous years.

Companies more cost conscious

Ms Stella Tang, managing director of Robert Half Singapore said wage growth is slowing as companies become more cost conscious.

"After several years of rapid wage growth, employers are moderating the rate of further increases. Company leadership is becoming more cost conscious and while they are keen to add new people to their team, they are keeping a close eye on the overall wages bill."

Instead, companies are increasingly likely to offer employees a package that includes benefits such as flexible work arrangements, performance bonuses, mentoring and international opportunities, she said.

But there are a few jobs which are still commanding pay increases of more than 10 per cent.

"We are seeing a strengthening of demand for some technology roles in business analysis, IT Audit and Risk as well IT Business Development," said Ms Tang. "These roles can expect above average salary increases this year."

New hires can also expect double the pay increase of those remaining with their existing company," she added.

Mr Lee Fook Chiew, chief executive officer of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA), said keeping their skills up to date was the best strategy for accounting and finance professionals to stay relevant and land the better paying jobs.

"While there is an increase in finance and accounting jobs across most industries, the employment market is still very competitive," he said. "Hence, individuals need to take responsibility for their own professional development to stay ahead of the game, or risk being left behind."

Wage growth slowing but hiring activity increasing

While wage growth is slowing, the number of companies making new hires is increasing and is now at its highest level in three years, Robert Half found.

Half of all the companies it surveyed plan to increase headcount in the first half of the year. Two years ago this percentage was closer to a third.

Technology professionals were the most in demand. Two years ago just 26 per cent of companies were looking to employ more IT staff. This year 50 per cent of companies are making technology hires.

In the banking and financial services sector, employment activity has risen steadily each of the last two years, with companies seeking to fill mid-level and senior positions. In the finance and accounting sector there is also a growing demand across companies for accounting as well as compliance professionals.

Compared to other regional financial centres, Singapore is among the most active hiring markets for accounting and finance professionals, behind China (59 per cent) and on par with Hong Kong (53 per cent).

The best paid jobs

In finance and accounting:

Tax specialists: Top Salaries of up to $95,000 for analysts and up to $360,000+ for directors. Year-on-year increases of between 2 to 6 per cent.

A growing number of companies are looking to strengthen their in-house tax capabilities as an alternative to outsourcing this function to consulting firms. The role of the tax professional is increasingly complex given the exposure of many Singapore companies to multiple markets, each with their own tax compliance regime.

In banking and financial services:

Credit risk analysts: Top Salaries of up to $70,000 for analysts and up to $210,000 for senior vice presidemts and managing directors. Year-on-year increases of between 4 to 6 per cent.

There is an increasing demand for people with the skills to manage the credit exposure of banks and insurance companies. While companies are still keen to pursue growth, their experience during the last decade has shown getting paid is as important as getting sales.

In technology

IT audit and IT risk: Top salaries of up to $140,000 with year-on-year increases of 13 per cent.

Numerous high profile examples of cyber-attacks on companies have focussed management on the need to make their IT infrastructure secure. That's why there is strong wages growth for professionals that can examine, evaluate and improve an organization's information technology infrastructure, policies and operations.