Strong fourth quarter closes robust jobs year in the Asia Pacific Region

January 25, 2018 8 mins read
Strong fourth quarter closes robust jobs year in the Asia Pacific Region

APAC Employment Monitor Q4 2017 Highlights:

  • Permanent financial services jobs remained flat quarter-on-quarter and increased by 12% year-on-year.
  • Professionals seeking new jobs decreased by 18% quarter-on-quarter and by 13% year-on-year.
  • Contracting jobs decreased by 20% quarter-on-quarter, and increased by 22% year-on-year.
  • Singapore: 20% decrease in jobs and 37% decrease in candidates, quarter-on-quarter.
  • China: 11% growth in jobs and 26% decrease in candidates, quarter-on-quarter.
  • Japan: 17% decrease in jobs and 26% decrease in candidates, quarter-on-quarter.
  • Australia: 11% increase in jobs and 3% decrease in candidates, quarter-on-quarter.
  • Hong Kong: 36% increase in jobs and 47% increase in candidates, quarter-on-quarter.


Click HERE to check the Infographic for APAC Employment Monitor Q4 2017

Defying seasonal expectations, jobs available in Q4 2017 remained flat quarter-on-quarter, and increased by 12% year-on-year. After a year of globally volatile elections in 2016, it was unclear how the region's economy would respond to those events in 2017, but its robust performance has demonstrated a degree of immunity as the region has continued to thrive. “It’s remarkable to close the year with no decrease in jobs available on a region-wide level, when compared to last quarter” said Richie Holliday, Chief Operations Officer, Morgan McKinley Asia Pacific.

Though the overall trend is encouraging, jobs available figures varied significantly on a country by country level. “The countries occupy the same geographic region, but each has its own, unique financial services sector and business climate, meaning the devil is in the country-data details,” said Holliday.

The number of professionals seeking jobs was, conversely, consistent with usual end-of-year trends. Down by 18% quarter-on-quarter and by 13% year-on-year, the figures mirror dips in Q4 2016. “The promise of bonuses keep professionals in place through the first weeks of the New Year,” said Holliday. “Given the performance of 2017 and the jobs coming to market, once bonus season is over, expect to see professionals out in force looking for their next position.”

Employment in Hong Kong

Hong Kong led the regional pack with a 36% increase in jobs and a 47% increase in candidates, quarter-on-quarter. Year-on-year, Hong Kong's performance was even more noteworthy: jobs available were up 78% and candidates were up by 56%. “The rapidly growing influence of China on Hong Kong’s financial services market has been a boon for the island’s banking and financial services sector,” said Holliday.

Even as Hong Kong has experienced an attrition of non-Chinese financial services businesses, Chinese companies have been quick to move and snap up not only their market share, but even their physical business locations. “The cultural shift is changing the business landscape drastically, but it’s bringing with it a wealth of opportunity,” said Holliday.

The numbers are especially encouraging coming at a time of year when budgets are usually exhausted and hiring is paused until the new budget season begins. “2018 is looking to be a headliner year for Hong Kong on the financial services hiring front,” said Holliday.

Employment in Singapore

Singapore, which had a strong performance in Q3, saw a significant drop in both jobs and job seekers in Q4. In all, jobs were down 20% and professionals seeking new positions were down 37%, quarter-on-quarter. “Despite closing the year with a low performance, the financial services market in Singapore was stronger in 2017 than 2016,” said Holliday.

Whereas in 2016 Singapore saw a strengthening of fintech hiring and a reduction in traditional financial services roles, 2017 was the opposite. Specifically hiring in trading, corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions and private banking was high. “Any private banker interested in working can get a job, bonuses and all, in Singapore," said Holliday.

Though shrinking due to the government’s restrictive visa policies, Singapore continues to have a disproportionately large expat workforce, making the Christmas holiday a more significant contributor to the season’s job movement than in Singapore’s regional counterparts.

Employment in Japan

Japan had a low performance Q4 with a 17% decrease in jobs, and 26% decrease in candidates, as compared to Q3. The data defied on the ground sentiment, however, which was more consistent with the country's year-on-year shift in which jobs increased by 1% and candidates seeking new jobs were up by a staggering 109% from Q4 2016.

“A 109% year-on-year increase in Tokyo is radical,” said Holliday. “We’ve seen a cultural shift among financial services professionals building over time, but this figure brings that shift into sharp relief.” Traditionally, Japan has had a more conservative business climate with limited churn, but it also has the largest slice of the Asia Pacific’s financial services sector.

Whether the demand among candidates for new jobs will result in a supply of new jobs to market remains to be seen. “At this time, the gap between jobs available and job seekers is vast, but as the culture shifts, so will that dynamic,” said Holliday.

Employment in Mainland China

In China candidate figures were in free fall while jobs were up, in the fourth quarter. The numbers were even starker as compared to the previous year, with jobs up 43% year-on-year and candidates down 43% in the same time frame.

The Chinese so-called “thirteenth month” bonus tradition is an effective staff retention incentive that makes the end of the year a very quiet time for job seekers  who can expect one month’s additional salary in the New Year. It is highly unusual, therefore, to see any kind of movement among professionals until later in Q1.

GDP growth has been steady and consistent with expectations. Combined with the amount of new jobs becoming available, China is likely to experience another growth year in 2018. “The Chinese economy is performing well. It’s an ideal time for job seekers to have their pick of new opportunities,” said Holliday.

Employment in Australia

December is traditionally a strong month for financial services hiring, as the holiday season tends to start early January rather than during December. Having said that, though there was a slight decrease in candidates seeking jobs, which were down 3% quarter-on-quarter, jobs themselves were up by 11% from Q3.

In all, Australia continues to fit the stereotype of the so-called Goldilocks Economy: not too hot, not too cold. Though dominated by domestic banks, Australia is considered a leader in the financial services sector: well managed and technologically advanced. The Australian government’s push to modernize data collection and storage has led to a wealth of jobs in the fintech sector, also.

The availability of good jobs in forward-thinking institutions makes Australia an inviting destination for financial services professionals. However, the restrictions on work visas for foreign nationals have made the hiring climate more challenging for non-Australians. In addition, the summer months down under make for a seasonal slowdown that routinely impacts hiring.

Contractor Employment

Contractor hiring continued its growth with a 22% year-on-year increase. Quarter-on-quarter the positions slid downward along with the standard seasonal trajectory. “By nature, contractor work is more responsive to seasonal and economic shifts, so the fluctuation matches our expectations,” said Holliday.

As with all region-wide employment data, contractor figures provide an overview that is informed by the vastly different business climates of the individual countries. In Sydney contractor positions are highly regarded and well integrated into business models, whereas in Singapore contractor positions are seen as inferior to full time positions.

With many companies moving portions of their businesses out of Singapore, a cultural shift is taking place there too. Contractors are playing an increasingly large role in managing those transitions. “Contractors save businesses a lot of money while providing workers with a rapid professional growth path, so their popularity will continue to increase and normalize in countries that have thus far been slower to embrace them,” said Holliday.


2017 was a strong employment year for the Asia Pacific region’s financial services sector. “Morgan McKinley APAC had its best Q4 on record,” said Holliday. The high performance provides an ideal springboard for 2018, which promises to see more growth.

In all, Morgan McKinley is up over 400% in revenues since the global financial crisis, and with increasing activity in the sector is poised to expand still further. As many companies shift some of their operations to Malaysia, the Philippines, and other lower-cost parts of the region, the company is keeping apace and is expanding its staffing services for those locations.



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Morgan McKinley APAC Employment Monitor Methodology

Morgan McKinley’s APAC Employment Monitor provides quarterly data on new professional job availability and the number of professionals seeking new roles in the Financial Services sector. The figures in this report are derived from Morgan McKinley’s own internal data from jobs released by employers and professionals registering for new roles in conjunction with market share figures and knowledge of the market.

In addition to we are now reporting on contract and fixed term contract (non-permanent) quarterly data on new professional job availability in the Financial Services and Commerce & Industry sector through the same methodology.

About Morgan McKinley

Morgan McKinley is a global professional services recruiter connecting specialist talent with leading employers across multiple industries and disciplines.

With offices across Ireland, the UK, EMEA, Asia and Australia, the company’s professional recruitment expertise spans banking & financial services; commerce & industry and professional services. Morgan McKinley is a preferred supplier to many of the major employers in its specialist sectors and thousands of smaller local firms.

Morgan McKinley APAC provides specialist recruitment services across the APAC region, including Australia, Mainland China, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, working with clients and candidates to deliver local knowledge as well as global reach.

Morgan McKinley APAC has been awarded the following recent industry accolades:

~ 2017 HR magazine GOLD award: Best Recruitment firm in Banking & Financial Services
~ Most Valuable RECRUITMENT SERVICE Provider: 2017 MEET HR awards, China
~ Best RECRUITMENT INNOVATION at Human Resources Asia awards, 2017
~ 2016 HR magazine GOLD award 2016: Best PERM RECRUITER
~ 2016 BEST INTERNATIONAL TALENT SEARCH SERVICE PROVIDER in Greater China, HRoot Annual Human Resources Awards
~ BEST INTERNATIONAL RECRUITMENT SERVICE PROVIDER at the 2016 China Recruitment International Asia Awards
~ ACCOUNTANCY RECRUITMENT COMPANY OF THE YEAR in Japan at the 2015 Recruitment International Asia Awards
~ SEEK annual recruitment award: Mid-Sized Recruiter of the year, 2015
~ Global Recruiter APAC award 2015 for BEST MARKETING CAMPAIGN & highly commended BEST IN-HOUSE TRAINING
~ INNOVATION LEADER in the China HR Industry, TOP HR awards 2015
~ Best BANKING & FS Recruiter HK 2016, 2015 and 2014: Recruitment International Asia Awards
~ CANDIDATE CARE PROGRAMME OF THE YEAR: 2014 Recruitment International Australia awards
~ Best BANKING & FS Recruiter JAPAN 2016 and 2014: Recruitment International Asia Awards
~ Global Recruiter APAC 2014 BEST IN-HOUSE TRAINING award & Highly Commended BEST MARKETING CAMPAIGN
~ TOP HR: Best headhunter in China, 2013

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Marlon Mai
Managing Director, Greater China