Pay hikes in region seen holding steady

But bonuses likely to rise a bit next year in view of a still-tight labour market, higher inflation: survey

[SINGAPORE] Pay hikes in Singapore and many parts of the Asia-Pacific region are tipped to hold steady for another year, as the business outlook remain shaky.

But bonuses are likely to rise a bit in 2014 in view of a still-tight labour market and higher inflation, according to a regional poll by Hong Kong-based human resource consultancy firm HRBS.

Total pay in Singapore is projected to increase 5.0 per cent next year - the same as in 2013 and slightly higher than in 2012 when a 4.5 per cent raise was given, says the poll which covered 1,700 employers in 19 Asia-Pacific markets, 142 in Singapore.

The average bonus here will probably be 16 per cent of total pay in 2014, up from 15 per cent this year.

"Singapore's labour market remains tight and retention of employees and talents is a key concern for many employers," says HRBS's managing partner Elaine Ng. "The general resignation rate averages 7.9 per cent among employers in the first half of 2013, versus 6.6 per cent for the same period last year, based on our survey."

In the financial sector where talent is especially scarce, employers are likely to dangle salary increases of about 6.0 per cent to attract and retain staff, according to her.

Inflation is another factor likely to shape next year's salary costs in Singapore. Though it is relatively low this year, averaging 2.4 per cent, Ms Ng predicts inflation here will jump to around 2.9 per cent in 2014 - affecting pay increases in real terms.

Companies here looking to lower profits may trim pay increases to around 4.0 per cent in the coming year, but it's still a "robust" raise, according to her.

Of the 19 markets covered in the HRBS poll, salary increases are tipped to slip in eight of them in 2014, but only by 0.5 percentage point or less. Among these markets are Australia, India, Japan and the Philippines.

Another eight markets are projected to see pay hikes stand still. Apart from Singapore, they include China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam.

Only three of the markets polled - Indonesia, New Zealand and Taiwan - are likely to see higher salary increases. But the increases are peanuts, just 0.1-0.2 percentage points.

As expected, high-income markets - Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan - are expected to dish out the smallest pay increases. These range from 2.3 per cent for Japan to 5.5 per cent for South Korea.

Those likely to offer the biggest pay hikes - 10 per cent to 13.3 per cent - are the low-income markets: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

As for bonuses in 2014, the projected payout - 16 per cent of total pay - for Singapore is the second biggest among the markets polled.

Vietnam is also expected to see bonus payout of 16 per cent of total salary.

Bonuses in Bangladesh and Pakistan are likely to be 17 per cent of total pay, the largest polled.

The projected bonuses for all the markets polled range from 13 per cent to 17 per cent for 2014, against 8.0 per cent to 15 per cent for 2013.

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