Pay in Singapore tipped to rise 4.0% in 2019


WHILE pay for the Asia-Pacific region as a whole is tipped to continue on a gentle upward trend in 2019, rising 5.9 per cent on average, the increase in Singapore is likely to stay the same as in 2018.

Employers here are budgetting for an average 4.0 per cent increase in salary next year, unchanged from 2018, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson.

Pay hikes in the region, which saw a mild rebound from 5.6 per cent in 2017 to 5.7 per cent in 2018, the first jump in four years, are projected to continue to creep up in 2019 "due to the region's realistic outlook for business results this year", the Nasdaq-listed global advisory, broking and solutions firm said in a press statement on Tuesday.

"Sixty per cent of surveyed organisations expect their company performance in 2018 to be in line with the prior year's results."

The survey, done in June, received 3,769 responses from 17 markets in the Asia-Pacific. The findings are contained in the firm's 2018 Asia Pacific Salary Budget Planning Report (Third Quarter).

The trend in pay rise in Singapore is similar to that in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan (see table).

In Singapore, banks gave the lowest salary increase (3.4 per cent and a projected 3.5 per cent in 2019) this year, while the pharmaceutical and health sciences industry gave the highest (4.1 per cent and a projected 4.2 per cent in 2019).

On average, 16.8 per cent of the salary hike budget in the region is being apportioned to top performers, which represent 12.8 per cent of employees. This means that for each US dollar allocated to an average or below-average performer, US$1.44 is offered to a top performer.

According to the report, the annual incentive for 2018 averaged 1.5 months' base salary in the region. Incentives were slightly higher in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam at 1.7 months on average. For Taiwan, the average was 1.8 months.

In Singapore, the highest variable payouts in 2018, based on 2017 performance, are from banking as well as pharmaceutical and health sciences. They pay an average of 2.2 months of base salary as incentives to staff.

"Early projections for 2019 expect that incentives payout will be kept constant as 2018 with 2.2 months of the base salary to employees in the insurance industry and 2.0 months of base salaries to employees in the manufacturing and banking industries," the statement said.

Willis Towers Watson said the strong growth of the pharmaceutical and health sciences business in the region is helping to keep the sector's salary increases ahead in most markets.

"The sector is bolstered by biotech developments and other digital innovations, as well as recent policy reforms in China and Japan."

The 2018 median salary hikes in the pharmaceutical and health sciences industry are on average 0.2 per cent higher than the general industry, with bigger differences seen in Indonesia (0.9 per cent), China (0.5 per cent) and India (0.3 per cent).

Salary increases in the financial services industry still lag most of the markets in the region.

"The sector has been facing headwinds in a continuously evolving business landscape, particularly due to intensifying competition from fintech developments, thereby making firms in this sector even more cautious with their overall spending."

On average, the 2018 median salay rise in financial services is 0.3 per cent lower than the general industry.