Navigating Asian Labor Markets Amid Uncertainty: Insights from Hays

Economic uncertainty has rocked Asian countries in the wake of COVID-19, and clients and candidates are reluctant to act. Global tensions, concerns about automation, skills shortages and slower economic growth shape this situation. Even financial institutions are under pressure to control costs. Despite this, there are in-demand roles for accounting and finance professionals across Asia.

A stalemate can jeopardize economic growth, as hiring managers are reluctant to rush hiring. And the candidates have a cautious approach. With 43% of accounting and finance workers open to opportunities, passive candidates hold the key.

To help companies and candidates navigate the current challenges, professional recruitment group Hays surveyed 8,525 skilled professionals from Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan to understand their recruitment plans.

The Hays Asia 2024 Salary Guide contains salary and sector insights to help hiring managers see regional recruitment trends and skills gaps. Professionals can discover in-demand roles and learn how to future-proof their careers.

This research comes at a crucial time when the world of work is changing. Professionals seek flexible workplaces and meaningful careers, and businesses rethink their priorities as they search for talent.

Tom Osborne, Managing Director of HaysSoutheast Asia, explains,Success lies in how companies and their workplace navigate challenges and skills shortages Building a talent pipeline and identifying skills gaps are vital to hiring managers who are not yet recruiting. This is no time to be complacent. Technological changes are revolutionizing the world of work, and finance and accounting are no exception.

Navigating Employer Challenges in Asia: Addressing the Skills Gap, Embracing Flexibility and Future-proofing Talent

Skill gaps

Candidates with special abilities are restricted. Professionals know this, with 56% of respondents saying they lack the artificial intelligence (AI) skills to succeed in their roles.

The nature of jobs and skills is changing across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. Digital transformation forces organizations to identify skills gaps and protect their workforce with the widening skills gap and shortage of skilled talent, employers need to address this.

Sustainability is a growing priority for businesses across the region, leading to a demand for green skills. China is the world’s second largest issuer of green bonds, and banks now have robust finance departments. Professionals with solid finance or ESG expertise are in high demand.

Contract roles

There is an ongoing demand for accounting and finance contractors as organizations do not want or need to commit to permanent roles. Companies building their own teams are looking for alternative sources of talent.

What do employees want?

Today, there is an increased focus on long-term professional growth and development as a driving force in finding a new job. The Hays survey shows that the desire to take on new challenges has overtaken low-paying offers as the main reason for leaving. Osborne says: More than low wages, professionals today are becoming more aware of the need to future-proof themselves against disruptive change. This extends to passive candidates, who will be more open to change when the right opportunity presents itself.

Hiring manager recommendations

As the integration of AI becomes widespread, skill development gaps will become more apparent. By addressing these gaps, employees can meet evolving accounting and financial needs.

Hiring contract workers is a flexible solution to talent deficits. Contractors have specialized skills, are flexible and can adapt to projects, addressing immediate skills shortages.

Many markets today are experiencing a skills shortage beyond AI. To embrace this change, skills-based hiring and training rather than relying on traditional qualifications can build future-ready teams. An organization equipped for the future depends on how it approaches hiring and upskilling current employees.

Engaging talent through early discussions creates an environment conducive to professional growth and development, especially amid an uncertain economic outlook. By facilitating internal transfers and openly sharing business challenges that may present growth opportunities, companies empower employees to take ownership of their careers.

As recruitment cycles are lengthened, companies may lose top talent. Flexibility is essential for making decisions and placing candidate pipelines.

Talented professionals look for employers that meet their job preferences. Flexible working and career progression increase the attractiveness of candidates.

Recommendations for Job Seekers

Job seekers, passive candidates and contractors should future-proof their careers by:

  • Staying informed of industry trends and technology.
  • Networking.
  • Improving skills.

Internal assignments and transfers are a way to increase your skills. If your employer does not offer upskilling in the areas you are interested in, there is self-funded training as well as informal and non-accredited courses (many of them internet-based). Search for courses related to your desired job title and/or sector. Books, podcasts, and articles on the topic you want to learn can also help you improve your skills.

Candidates with AI, cloud computing, machine learning (ML) and cybersecurity skills have bargaining power when negotiating salary, flexibility and development opportunities. Knowledge of foreign languages ​​is attractive to hiring managers.

AsiaSnapshot: Roles in demand


In pursuit of innovation and technology, professionals with digital skills especially in data analytics, AI, cloud computing and cyber security have a competitive advantage. Compliance officers and those working in financial crime also remain in high demand. Candidates within these groups are well positioned to secure better opportunities and higher salaries.

  • Finance or Credit Analyst
  • Corporate Finance
  • Operational Risk Management
  • Financial Crimes Compliance
  • Against money laundering


The accounting and finance sector is showing resilience, attributed to strong domestic demand, credit growth and government measures Accounting and finance professionals with soft skills and technical expertise remain in demand, particularly in short candidate areas such as risk management , sustainability, corporate finance. and credit writing.

  • Investment and Compliance Professional
  • ESG / Sustainability Professional
  • IPO consultant
  • SCC transformation lead
  • Internal Auditor


Candidates prioritize benefits beyond remuneration, including accessibility, flexibility and non-financial benefits. Bilingual English and Thai candidates are in demand. Proficiency in Mandarin or Japanese are popular in job advertisements. As interview rounds occur, open positions close quickly as firms accelerate their recruiting process for top talent.

  • Corporate Finance
  • Financial Planning and Analysis
  • Sustainability Accounting
  • taxes
  • Head of Finance


Asset managers, hedge funds, private equity and M&A firms are actively hiring to support the growing demand. Skilled professionals with English skills are especially valuable amid a shortage of qualified candidates.

  • M&A Advisory
  • Compliance, Portfolio, Investment Managers
  • Credit risk analyst
  • Senior Accountants and Staff
  • FP&A Manager and Analyst

Hong Kong

The retail and corporate banking sector has remained strong and is actively seeking talent. Shortages of candidates here result from overseas migration and those leaving their careers during the pandemic. The Private Wealth Management sector similarly faces a talent shortage, particularly for experienced relationship managers skilled in cross-border asset diversification.

  • Relationship Manager
  • Transaction banking products specialist
  • Special Asset Management
  • Digital Transformation and Automation
  • Director and Director of Taxation
  • Credit checker


Multinational companies have slowed down their recruitment. Accounting jobs are on the decline. However, its growing ultra-wealthy population has increased the demand for private banking and wealth management professionals.

Required roles

  • CFO
  • Director of Finance
  • Asia Pacific Compliance Officer and Auditor
  • ESG/Green Finance Field Manager
  • Private Banking

Find more details on these trends and employment opportunities in the Hays Asia Salary Guide. Clickhere to download.

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