APAC Tech talent exodus from Hong Kong to Singapore
Singapore has historically sat at the junction between two worlds – it’s a meeting point for culture, a melting pot of creativity, and a true global centre of commerce.
It’s also increasingly one of the most attractive and desired places to live and work, especially from a huge wave of ex-pats leaving Hong Kong post-pandemic. But why is Singapore now such a hotbed for tech talent?
The answer lies in a bit of contemporary history. Singapore benefits from a unique proposition at a unique moment in time – it’s an encouraging and supportive place for global businesses seeking a base for APAC operations post-COVID, which has started an exodus of talent from places that are still either feeling the impact of COVID or who offer less of an attractive remuneration and cultural benefits package.
It’s also attracting a global workforce, both in-person and remotely due to enterprise attention within the state. There are huge workforce pushes to hire remote talent to make up for talent shortages in some key sectors. It’s especially acute in mid and senior-level tech positions.
In part, this is because companies have been opening Singaporean offices over the last 2 years to further enmesh themselves in the APAC market, but are now struggling to hire staff from a highly-skilled, yet limited, domestic skills market.
(It’s worth noting that famously high salary bandings have also put pressure on businesses, especially smaller companies who cannot compete with larger holdings on competitive salary packages. But more on that below!)
Why is Singapore such an attractive place to work and live for tech talent?
The power and draw of Singapore for investment, talent, business and nascent tech industries is now firmly established.
- As Opengovasisa notes, “The island nation is home to over 600 investors and 200 accelerators and incubators, not to mention various state and government-linked initiatives”.
Singapore is also looking like a more attractive location for Hong Kong residents seeking new places to work and live, following political shifts since 2020 and the ongoing, seemingly endless (and ineffective) COVID restrictions in the region which, reports state, could preclude another lockdown.
This exodus has been to the benefit of Singapore. The impact from this mass movement of talent (and their families) is both good and bad – there is a novel sort of pressure on Singaporean infrastructures, such as school places, whilst employers celebrate the rise in talent to make up for the skills shortages in some key sectors.
The Singaporean tech sector has, clearly, benefited from this movement of people away from China and Hong Kong.
The rise of regional developments in working culture and necessity
Again, leaning on the Opengovasia piece above: taking guidance from other cities and areas of innovation such as Silicon Valley or the tech centre of East London is wise, “simply copying…policies and strategies wholesale would not work, instead, it is vital that the country learns from what these leading tech ecosystems do right and then adapt best practices for the Southeast Asian context”.
This is, of course, good advice, as the unique demographic, societal and historical precedents of working and living in the APAC region, not to mention the ongoing regional political gulfs in attitudes and expectations to work, differs immensely from Europe or the USA.
That said, innovation and attention on technology in the region is rising, and much of that is to do with the pro-business culture of Singapore. This, naturally, is incredibly positive for tech talent looking to relocate from other tech-heavy areas in the APAC region like Hong Kong or Sydney.
The Straits Times noted, “foreign tech companies with deep pockets and ambitious plans for expansion in Singapore and the region are a major reason for the intense talent hunt here”.
Salary raising puts the focus on Singaporean talent
2022 is turning out to be a year in which salary rises break records, as “software engineers enjoyed the highest raises among various technical specialisations…with an average increase of 22 per cent… senior software engineers who hold leadership roles saw an even sharper raise, with increments of up to 32 per cent”. We have also seen outlier cases of local tech talent moving jobs at 50-100% of their base salaries.
This trend of above-market increases is likely to continue.
The benefits package work employers have been offering to lure talent away from globally based employers into new, APAC-specific jobs is immediately noticeable, “Local tech talent in Singapore may be offered increments of around 20 per cent when changing employers…Other popular companies paying more than 25 per cent over the median include TikTok owner ByteDance, investment banks Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, and food delivery platform foodpanda”.
Senior tech talent are being drawn to Singapore for several critical reasons, but the clearest drivers of change have been political and COVID-related upheaval in Hong Kong, and a business-first approach to innovation and tech proliferation in Singapore.
Alan Anwar is the Managing Director at Datasearch Consulting, a leading executive recruitment firm specialising in the Financial Technology & Data sectors.
You can download their FREE comprehensive guide on “The Complete Guide to Hiring Fintech & Data Talent – 5 Proven Steps to Secure the Best Candidates Possible” here. Alternatively you can view the Datasearch Consulting website or contact them directly on firstname.lastname@example.org for a more detailed discussion
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