HRM Asia Exclusive: HR salary update

Strong economic growth is continuing across the Asian region, and HR is increasingly taking a more prominent position in the boardroom. The function is creating business growth through human capital development. But are HR salaries matching up to the increased responsibility?

Over the years, HR has really come into the spotlight. It has been recognised that acquiring the best possible talent is a necessity for firms wanting to compete at the regional and global levels. That in turn has highlighted the necessity to compensate and provide an attractive pick ‘n mix of employee benefits.

And the employer brand – typically maintained by HR – has been welcomed as the way recruiters can first start to engage a candidate in their career journey.

“The list goes on, and so the HR function has won its seat at the management table,” says Shook Liu, manager of Frazer Jones in Hong Kong. “To be effective, the HR leaders’ voices need to be heard and supported so as to enable the strategic people agenda to be acted upon and successfully implemented within the organisation.”

The trends Frazer Jones sees include an increase in the HR business partnering concept, as well as the evolution of HR specialists (handling organisational design, talent, learning and management development, talent acquisition, and rewards).

According to the 2015 Hays Salary Guide, HR salaries in Singapore will remain strong this year, as the candidate shortage continues. There will be increased demand for both permanent and contract HR talent thanks to a number of factors. These include the emergence of new regional hubs based here, as well as an increasing number of companies moving their global headquarters to Singapore.

On top of this, Hays says HR professionals are in high demand to help employers meet the challenges posed by a broader candidate shortage.

“We believe employers will be open to paying a higher salary for the right person in the year ahead, but only once they have exhausted the search for a quality candidate at their original lower salary level,” the 2015 Hays Salary Guide reveals. “This approach will lead to delays in hiring and consequently employers could miss out on strong candidates.”

HR salaries in Singapore

Having HR at the strategic and effective level comes at a price, says Fiona Nesbitt, Country Manager for Frazer Jones. According to the Frazer Jones’ HR in Asia - Market & Salary Survey 2014, business partners at the managerial level with five to eight years of experience make $60,000 to $96,000 per year, whereas those at the director level with seven to 12 years of experience make in the range of $120,000 to $180,000.

According to the 2015 Singapore Employment Survey by recruitment and business services advisor FocusCore, HR professionals in Singapore are generally drawing high annual salaries this year, starting with $55,000 for HR generalist and business partners. The top HR earners are HR information system specialists who command as much as $90,000 annually.

The report found that work-life balance, followed by company culture, was the most important factor for Singapore professionals choosing a new employer. Career progression and salary were voted as the least important factors.

More than half of the respondents to FocusCore’s survey (51.9%) said that they also qualified for long-term incentives (cash, stock options, equity) over a five-year plan.

When it comes to industry-specific HR salaries, evidently, the banking and financial services sector is the most lucrative industry for HR professionals. “This is because the services and deals and are of higher value,” Nesbitt explains.

On the flip side, industrial HR professionals may be less well off as profit margins there remain low and this effects the compensation for employees across the business.

“Year-on-year, Frazer Jones sees a healthy increment of at least seven per cent to 12% on base salaries and stable annual bonuses, if not more,” says Nesbitt.

Regional HR salaries

The Hong Kong HR market has seen a distinct shift in recent years, from a preference for HR generalists to demand for more experienced functional specialists, says Liu.

“This trend was evident throughout 2013 as companies across all industries looked to develop their targeted HR services, with many implementing a more developed ‘COE’ framework,” she explains.

In demand functions include hiring compensation and benefits (C&B) specialists, aimed at increasing competitiveness and retention rates; and learning and development (L&D) managers to help spur on employee capability and development.

In addition, the return of the ‘traditional’ HR business partner has been evident in many organisations. Companies are looking to strengthen the relationship between the strategic elements of HR and the tangible impact on the business.

“We expect this focus on specialist functions to continue in 2015 and this will naturally result in increased salaries for HR professionals,” says Liu.

According to Hays, while salary levels are expected to remain steady for most job functions in the year ahead, employers will offer higher salaries in order to secure the right senior HR candidates. That’s especially so in L&D, as employers are placing a greater focus on retention rather than attraction.

In Mainland China on the other hand, economic growth has notably slowed in recent years, due in part to candidates’ unwillingness to move into new positions. Companies have also developed their retention plans and, in addition to salary increments, are offering benefits and development to encouraged longevity in employees.

As a result of this change, companies are becoming inclined to hire more specialist C&B professionals to assist in the redesign of benefits options. Similarly, other HR functions took a more prominent role: organisational development, change management and L&D professionals have all been recruited to assist in employee retention.

According to Hays, the outlook for HR professionals in China this year is very strong. Candidates in demand include all levels of C&B experts, HR Business Partners, mid to senior talent acquisition managers and L&D managers. Many of these new hires will secure significant salary increases.

Closer to home, Malaysia’s HR market and salary increases for top talent are expected to see further growth this year.

Several areas of demand will exist. Firstly, candidates with regional experience are valued by organisations moving their regional headquarters to Kuala Lumpur and are thus able to command salary increases.

“Also, as organisations shift their focus from cost reduction to retention and engagement, we have seen a particular increase in demand for talent management and organisational development skills. (These will) strengthen retention strategies and build all-important succession plans,” the 2015 Hays Salary Guide – Asia, says.

C&B candidates who can work hand-in-hand with the business to execute these retention strategies are in high demand. Not surprisingly therefore, Hays expects the salaries for C&B specialists to continue to rise in the year ahead.

“We also saw continuing strong demand for strategic HR Business Partners to support all divisions of the organisation. And we have seen steady hiring activity at the executive and senior levels as well,” the salary guide says.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s shared services sector continues to grow rapidly. These organisations have a huge appetite for HR talent and are expected to continue hiring and increasing salaries well into the year.

“The HR market in Malaysia will continue to grow in 2015 and for organisations to remain competitive they must strive to expedite their recruitment processes to ensure they secure top HR talent,” Hays advises.

What are you worth?


Regional HR Director or Vice President
(15 years experience)

Regional HR Director
(10 years)

HR Director or Head of HR (8-10 years)

HR Director or Head of HR
(less than eight years)


260 - 430

220 - 330

170 - 260

110 - 220

Hong Kong

210 - 350

170 - 300

150 - 210

150 - 210




160 - 240

130 - 160


250 - 400

220 - 250

180 - 220

150 - 180


130 - 190

90 - 110

60 - 80

50 - 60



Regional HR Manager or HR business partner
(10 years experience)

HR Manager or Business Partner (10 years)

HR Manager or HR Business Partner (five years)

Assistant HR Manager
(two years)


90 - 170

70 – 150

40 - 90

40 - 80

Hong Kong

110 - 150

110 - 170

70 - 90

50 - 80


130 - 180

110 - 160

100- 140

80 - 110


150 - 185

120 - 150

80 - 120

60 - 80


60 - 70

40 - 60

30 - 40

15 - 20



HR Associate

HR Officer (two years)


30 - 60

20 - 50

Hong Kong

50 - 80

30 - 60


70 - 100

50 - 80


50 - 60

40 - 50


20 - 30

10 - 20


Salaries are represented in S$

Salaries are representative of the total package value

Source: 2015 Hays Salary Guide - Asia


Analysing the Workday advantage

Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer of Aon-Hewitt Asia-Pacific, shares his thoughts on the Workday finance and HR analytics platform. He says the cloud-based system is intuitive and easy-to-use, but still provides powerful insights across the functions.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is to ascertain that you are a legitimate user and prevent automated spam submissions.
1 + 8 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Contact info

HR Summit Asia and Expo 2017

Follow us on Twitter