Salary & Employment Outlook

Overview of employment conditions, skills in demand, sector trends and salary benchmarks in Singapore


Numbers at a glance

Singapore has experienced a challenging 2016, with bright spots observed in the fast-expanding healthcare, fintech and digital sectors. What are employers’ hiring intentions for 2017?

Headcount increases


36% of employers surveyed are expected to recruit new hires

Hiring activity


61% who plan to increase headcount say they are actively seeking mid-level employees

Salary increases


58% of Singapore employers expect to increase salaries by ≤5% in the next 12 months for management to senior-level employees

Talent attraction and retention initiatives


55% Salary increases

46% Learning and development

40% Workplace flexibility

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)


97% say their organisations support D&I

Top 3 focus points for D&I programmes


64% Minority ethnic groups

59% Gender

44% Age

Singapore overview

The outlook for Singapore is expected to remain largely unchanged from 2016. Recruitment activity levels are expected to be comparable with last year.

Hiring patterns will be consistent with the region — 93% of the Singapore companies surveyed have said that they will be increasing or maintaining headcount, in line with the Asia average.

Digital, technology and healthcare are likely to be the country’s fastest-growing sectors, with the Singapore government pledging to boost investment in these sectors. Recently, for example, a funding scheme was put into place to support locally-based fintech (financial technology) trials, setting the path for the sector’s growth. Employers across these three sectors are likely to continue hiring actively, though recruitment efforts will largely focus on filling niche roles.

Against this backdrop, contracting continues to increase in popularity among Singapore-based employers with nearly 70% of companies surveyed already using contractors, especially in the areas of operations, technology and business support. Contracting offers employers flexibility in terms of headcount and budget. Through contracting, employers are also able to select from a larger pool of potential candidates than would otherwise be available to them.

Unsurprisingly, searching for the perfect candidate to fill in-demand roles will still be an uphill battle for many companies, who require candidates with specific skills, including broad geographical knowledge and clearly determined levels of experience. Employers might not be willing to compromise, displaying a strong preference to recruit only the perfect candidate.

While this raised talent bar is logical from a business perspective, such an approach may not be sustainable in the long run. Not only do longer hiring processes leave potential employees frustrated, positions that are left open for extended periods may compromise business growth. Employers may need to adopt a more open-minded approach, hiring a candidate with most – not all – the required skills and invest in his/her training and development instead. Employers also need to be aware that candidates may be more risk averse in a cautious environment and potentially reluctant to make a job change. Such an approach not only builds up the talent pool, but also sets the stage for employee retention and employer branding.

Engineering & Manufacturing

Singapore’s aerospace industry and the power electronics, smart energy and smart consumer product sectors will experience strong growth in 2017. In the aerospace industry in particular, new sites and facilities are being built, and several companies are looking to expand. Data centres are also poised for growth as Singapore retains its status as a regional hub.

Over the next 12 months, candidates are likely to adopt a cautious approach to job searching, favouring jobs that offer long-term stability and career advancement. Employers will also be more cautious when hiring, screening candidates more thoroughly to ensure they have the requisite skills and are culturally the right fit for a position. The recruitment process might consequently become more lengthy.

Candidates looking to switch jobs are likely to command increments of 10 to 15%. Some candidates move even with the same pay, if the new role is perceived as more exciting, or to have better prospects.

R&D engineering roles, application engineering for power electronics (such as inverters/drives and power systems). In this market, candidates with technical experience in aerospace, power electronics and research and development (R&D) across various industry sectors will continue to be sought after.

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Finance & Accounting

Recruitment activity for finance and accounting professionals is likely to pick up in manufacturing, pharmaceutical, healthcare and technology. In particular, these sectors will be open to hiring contract workers to support their expanding operations.

Over the next 12 months, hiring will remain relatively flat in finance and accounting functions at the middle-management level. There will be opportunities for senior-strategic hiring and at the more junior levels (for operational finance roles). Most employers are also seeking candidates with strong business partnering experience.

Both challenges and opportunities exist in the market for contract work. With the market expected to see limited growth, contracting will be a popular talent solution as more high-quality candidates are warming to the idea of working on a contract basis. However, some employers may not be well-informed about the benefits of contract employment.

Candidates who change jobs can expect to receive between 8 and 10% in increments, with contract workers usually commanding between 5 and 7%.

Commercial finance business partners, business analysts and roles in hybrid finance operations and analysis.

Employers are likely to favour candidates with experience in areas such as commercial business partnering, shared services, hybrid finance operations, analysis and tax.

On the contracting front, employers will favour candidates with formal qualifications, who have experience with SAP and have worked for multinationals. Candidates with a real breadth of experience, as well as exposure to different industries, will be in demand.

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Financial Services

The financial services and corporate governance sectors is expected to face some challenges in 2017. Most banks are consolidating, and funds are performing below expectations. Insurance and commodities firms, as well as private equity and asset management are expected to maintain status quo, with only some pursuing growth.

However, there will be opportunities in the financial technology (fintech) space as banks move into system automation for trading processes. There will also likely be a growing demand for contractors in corporate and private banking.

We also see a new trend with Asian origin banks focusing on international expansion and growing their market share/penetration with Asia, resulting in opportunities across the board.

With looming uncertainty in the next 12 months, many firms are investing in data analytics, market trend analysis and risk functions. These roles are perceived to be crucial to identify cost efficiencies, new market opportunities and business threats.

In the current market, permanent employees who change jobs can expect between 8 and 10% in increments. However, those who are unemployed before starting a new role may receive pay that is on par with their previous salary.

Contractors who switch jobs can expect between 8 and 12% in increments.

Roles in change management, risk analytics and big data as well as jobs involving cost savings and efficiency gains.

Candidates with experience in risk, regulatory compliance, analytical skills and who are proficient in business Mandarin are likely to be sought after.

For contractors: business analysts in operational risk and functional business analysts will be sought after.

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Healthcare & Life Sciences

Within the healthcare and life sciences sector, the high growth industries for 2017 are likely to be biotech, pharmaceutical and diagnostics.

As Singapore maintains its position as Asia’s fastest growing bio-medical hub, the lack of specialised skill sets will likely be a challenge for many employers. Already, to cope with a tighter foreign labour policy, many organisations in Singapore have started to invest more in the local workforce.

With more candidates starting to factor in overall benefits before deciding on a role, companies have started adopting flexible work hours and relooking their wellness policies in order to attract and retain staff. Companies are also executing more internal transfers and promotions as part of their talent management strategy.

Companies with a shortage of existing talent can also consider attracting non-pharmaceutical professionals with transferable skills from related industries, such as electronics and engineering.

In general, candidates moving between jobs may expect salary increases of 8 to 12%.

Roles in quality assurance, engineering, production and compliance.

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Human Resources

The healthcare, technology and e-commerce markets are expected to grow significantly in Singapore and firms in these sectors will be recruiting human resources (HR) personnel to support this growth.

With a sluggish economy, many companies are streamlining their costs and HR professionals are increasingly expected to multitask and demonstrate measurable, commercial value.

HR business partnering is also gaining popularity in Singapore as organisations realise the value of aligning HR processes and policies, in particular employee retention, with business goals. As more companies restructure their work processes, candidates with expertise in change management and organisational transformation will be in demand.

There is also a move towards specialist talent acquisition roles, rather than recruitment being one of several responsibilities given to generalists.

Likewise, the demand from talent management professionals with experience in performance management and succession planning has increased.

In general, candidates moving between jobs may expect salary increases of about 8 to 12%.

HR business partners specialising in talent management and talent acquisition specialists.

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The outlook for Singapore’s legal sector appears stable and legal process outsourcing, particularly in certain sectors, including financial services, may potentially increase as companies streamline costs.

Private practice is expected to face an interesting 2017. There will potentially be an oversupply of fresh graduates — more overseas law graduates are expected to return to Singapore — alongside the increasing number of experienced mid-level lawyers moving to in-house roles. More mid-level lawyers are leaving the practice citing stress and burnout as well as industry demands being perceived as out of sync with “Gen Y” expectations.

The in-house space is expected to see healthy levels of activity, particularly for mid-level lawyers. Companies are trying to reduce their reliance on external counsel for cost reasons as well as to build internal institutional knowledge and expertise.

Some global banks and multinational firms have slowed down recruiting due to concern over economic issues. This may be a challenge for candidates who are keen to explore only positions in global corporations as there are fewer openings available.

Overall, skills in demand for 2017 include compliance, mergers and acquisition, dispute resolution, regional experience (due to Singapore’s status as a South East Asian/Asia Pacific hub) and Mandarin proficiency.

In general, candidates moving between roles are likely to receive between 10 and 20% salary increases.

Regional in-house counsel, compliance/regulatory roles, and transactional lawyers.

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The digital and e-commerce sectors are expected to perform well this year as most business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies start prioritising below-the-line marketing.

Increasingly, companies are restructuring their marketing teams, moving away from geographical area splits (South East Asia versus North Asia, for example) to economic zone models (emerging markets versus established markets). This is because marketing leaders have come to realise that countries in the same geographical zone, like Singapore and Myanmar, may require different marketing approaches, being at different economic development stages. As a result, professionals working under this new model can now specialise in marketing products or services for more developed markets or develop skill sets to tackle emerging markets.

Growth remains strong in digital marketing, both within e-commerce and in traditional businesses looking to explore new marketing opportunities. Junior to mid-level candidates are expected to know how digital platforms operate and how to generate sales from social media and the Internet, as well as how to decrease cost-per-acquisition and increase conversion ratios from online engagement to revenue. Those who have regional exposure across South East Asia and are adept at developing new businesses are sought after as well.

Within the design space, specialists are encouraged to continually develop their technical skills. It is now more challenging for print designers to switch jobs, compared with designers who have also developed skills in UI, UX, front-end development and coding. Designers are now also expected to be able to operate across various platforms, including print, web and mobile.

For mid to senior-level professionals, skills in demand include the ability to strategise for digital markets and strategic marketing. For junior to mid-level professionals, skill sets in demand include integrated/global/regional/CRM (customer relationship management) and digital marketing experience.

In general, candidates moving between roles may expect increases of 10 to 12%.

Roles in digital marketing, corporate communications and strategic marketing as well as corporate strategy managers.

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Procurement & Supply Chain

The next 12 months present both challenges and opportunities for businesses operating out of Singapore. The market is likely to be volatile due to a significant decline in the oil and gas industry. Contracting, an increasingly popular talent solution, provides more flexibility for employers to adjust their workforce with the ebb and flow of the economy.

The medical devices and nutrition sectors will continue to perform well. In particular, many nutrition companies looking to set up a regional presence have picked Singapore as their Asia-Pacific base.

Other growth areas include the ingredients and flavours sector, packaging, consultancy businesses, e-commerce and third-party logistics.

In this market, skills that are valued include e-commerce experience within the supply chain field, project management, change management and transformation management expertise. Candidates with a supply chain background, as well as supply, demand and SOP planning experience, will be in demand.

Candidates moving between jobs can expect to receive between 7 and 12% in increments if they have been with the same employer for at least three years. Candidates with less than three years at their current job may receive the same pay, or up to a 5% increment, when they switch jobs.

Logistics managers, planners, supply chain managers, global category managers and indirect procurement specialists.

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Property & Construction

Property prices continue to remain relatively flat in Singapore, which is likely to limit new constructions, in particular at the top end of the market. As a result, property developers are expected to focus on selling or leasing their units within project deadlines, with many recruiting for experienced leasing managers who have strong commercial acumen.

The financial sector is also expected to develop their current assets in real estate and candidates who have experience in both markets will be highly sought after.

Singapore’s construction sector had faced challenges in stability last year, due largely to fluctuations in the Chinese Yuan as it depreciated against the US dollar. The recent anti-corruption laws in real estate, combined with this currency devaluation, have had an impact on companies in this sector, resulting in a reduction in hiring activity.

However, the leasing (residential and commercial) and investment (asset and portfolio management) sectors have performed relatively well due to a stable market and strong asset management.

In general, candidates moving between roles may expect increases of 10 to 15%.

Roles in leasing (residential and commercial) and investment managers (asset and portfolio management).

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Technology and healthcare are set to be 2017’s high-growth industries. More new products from these sectors are expected to be developed and marketed this year, due to the increased focus on innovation, research and development.

However, with a slower market — and hence, a reduction in sales figures — overcoming the challenge to motivate and retain sales teams will be a key focus for senior leaders. Hiring decisions for key roles that impact multiple markets may be prolonged as employers practice caution amid uncertainty in the global markets.

Still, junior to mid-level sales professionals will continue to be in high demand across sectors. Candidates with strong technical knowledge and strong consultative sales techniques will be sought after as companies now have to tailor and value-add their solutions to clients’ needs, as opposed to purely competing on price levels.

Cross-selling and effective CRM (customer relationship management) solutions are growing in popularity, especially in large organisations serving major clients across different business lines and countries. This has translated into an increased demand for professionals with regional experience in CRM analysis, knowledge management and bid management.

In general, candidates moving between roles may expect increases of 10 to 12%.

Roles in channel, sponsorship and media sales.

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The growth within Singapore’s e-commerce industry will lead to a rise in demand for professionals with DevOps/data science/Internet of Things experience.

Within e-commerce, the financial technology (fintech) sector is also set for growth, buoyed by significant government support. Singapore has been recognised as a regional financial hub, largely due to the growth of new payment, security and data management technologies. With the Singapore government initiating grants and schemes to develop the country’s fintech start-up domain, the number of new jobs in start-ups and newly set-up innovation centres will increase.

While firms may find it challenging to hire technology candidates who are both proficient in specific second languages and strong in technical skills, the government is making efforts to encourage and develop Singaporeans in these areas.

Increasingly, job seekers are now more receptive to joining Singaporean firms as they provide a stable work environment, and start-ups for technical growth and exposure. Local companies that provide training and development opportunities are also seen as more attractive.

In the market, candidates moving between roles expect to receive between 10 and 15% increments, but they might be willing to settle for less when there are opportunities for continued learning and progression.

At the junior levels, candidates can expect between 8 and 12% in increments when they change jobs.

Mobile developers, front-end developers, Linux system administrators, research engineers, cloud services specialists, DevOps engineers, security consultants, UX/UI designers and data scientists.

Candidates who have specific skills, including mobile development, cloud technology and e-commerce, are likely to be in demand.

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Asia trends