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2023 work trends in Asia: Salary, flexibility, D&I are equally important to retain talent

2023 work trends in Asia: Salary, flexibility, D&I are equally important to retain talent


Overall, 77% of respondents said they intended to leave their jobs for better salaries.

According to the latest 2023 Hays Asia Salary Guide, talent and skill shortage are still the top challenges facing Asia's employers. Thus, the agenda for organisations will be to retain employees, with a secondary focus on securing new talent to grow their workforce.

Intent to move remains high across Asia in 2023, although the number of active jobseekers has fallen. Between 2019-2023, China, Hong Kong, and Japan in particular saw a rising number of people who were open to opportunities, even if they were not actively applying to and interviewing for roles.

As such, 2023 will see the number of active jobseekers at an average of 29% of the workforce across Asia. Malaysia will see the most active jobseekers at 33%. Notably, there was less of an inclination to job hop in Japan, where the largest proportion of people said they were not considering a job switch.

As costs of living increase rapidly in every corner of the globe, salary remains the most important motivator for employees to decide whether to leave or stay at their jobs.

Overall, 77% of respondents said they intended to leave their jobs for better salaries, a sentiment which 80% of respondents in Hong Kong agreed with.

A salary expectation gap remains across all markets. The biggest gap will be felt in China and Malaysia, where the bulk of employees expect more than a 10% increase although employers are only planning for increases between 3-6%. Similarly, most employers in Hong Kong and Singapore indicated only planning for increases of up to 6%, while employees are expecting larger increases of 6% and above. However in Japan, more employers are planning for larger salary increases over what employees are expecting.

the 2023 hays asia salary guide 1

Benefits packages, including health allowances, also rose as a priority for all markets except for Japan, where only 19% chose it as a motivator for switching jobs. The other four markets averaged 47%.

Apart from salary, employees are also motivated by other elements of the work experience. Key motivators that stood out were career challenges, work-life balance, and work flexibility – and the latter two were critical to employees’ decision to stay at their jobs.

Flexible working options have also become a stronger priority in all markets except China, where only 27% of respondents cited it as a motivating factor. The rest of the four markets saw more than half (52%) on average. However, only employers in China seem to be taking this into consideration as indicated by significantly more employees reporting the availability of work flexibility over the previous year. Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore saw an increase in employers requiring employees to work permanently on-site.


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Key skills to prioritise for employers and employees

Across the region, the top three skills employers and employees indicated as important are:

  • hard/ technical skills
  • soft skills
  • management and leadership training

Looking at individual markets, reskilling to prepare for a different job was more important to 47% of employees in China over soft skills training, while digital training for platforms and tools was prioritised by 58% of employees in Malaysia over hard/technical skills training. Lack of time to devote to skills development was found to be the biggest obstacle by employees.

Employers consistently chose communication, problem solving, and teamwork ability as the top three soft skills new permanent employees need to have. From a hard skills perspective, technical and analytical abilities were on average most important to employers across Asia, followed by presentation skills in Hong Kong and Singapore, and project skills in China and Japan. Employers in Japan were also keener to hire candidates with excellent language skills. In Malaysia, more employers were on the lookout for new staff with management skills.


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Diversity, inclusion and sustainability become increasingly important

People in Asia are increasingly concerned about diversity and inclusion and are not hesitant to make decisions about their jobs accordingly. More people cited lack of equity, diversity, and inclusion policies at their organisations as a reason for intending to switch jobs in 2023 over the previous year, with China seeing the biggest increase from 8% to 13%.

This trend was also observed amongst those who intended to stay at their jobs, with an average of 21% citing the presence of these policies as their reason for staying, China again saw the highest number at 33%.

Japan was the exception with fewer people indicating its importance this year at 14% versus 19% in 2022. Notably, Japan also had the least respondents who felt there was equal representation between men and women at their organisations, including at the management level.

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While sustainability did not have much of an impact on people’s motivations to leave or stay at their jobs compared to other factors, most respondents said it was important to them that their employer showed and practiced commitment to environmental sustainability. Significantly more people in China said that this commitment was very important at 54% compared to an average of 29% across the other four markets. Singapore saw the opposite with the largest proportion of respondents saying it was 'only slightly important' or 'not at all important'.

In 2022, organisations started to implement sustainability as a pivotal corporate development agenda and embedded ESG in connection with business activities to reshape recruitment strategies for talent. In Asia, data showed that 47% of employers in Hong Kong implemented sustainability reporting, while the percentages for Mainland China, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore were 60%, 47%, 54% and 46%, respectively.

The growing trend on sustainability and ESG regulatory requirements drove strong demand in Hong Kong for experienced professionals in risk & compliance, accountancy and finance, office professionals and operation. Due to the current shortage of local and expatriate talent, 38% of employers in Hong Kong anticipate recruiting staff in 2023 to meet peaks in demand, whilst salary increments are expected to be over 30% for these hires.

The 2023 Hays Asia Salary Guide surveyed 10,191 skilled professionals and 3,630 employers from Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore, online in late 2022.

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Lead image / Shutterstock

All infographics / 2023 Hays Asia Salary Guide  

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