Skilled overseas talent easing labour shortages in Asia

The flow of skilled migrants is helping to counterbalance the ageing population in many Asian countries.

A modestly improved global economy has seen labour market pressures ease slightly since 2016, as growing numbers of well-educated migrants provide a flow of skilled labour across countries.

However, despite the slight easing in pressure, skill shortages remain as businesses continue to struggle to find skilled professionals in a number of specialist roles and sectors.

These are the key findings of the sixth edition of the Hays Global Skills Index, a report published today by recruiting experts Hays in collaboration with Oxford Economics.

The flow of skilled migrants has contributed to a slight decrease in the average overall index for this year. The score has dropped marginally from 5.4 to 5.3 this year – the first time there has been a reduction in the overall index score year-on-year since its conception in 2012.

UN data estimates that 244 million people, or 3.3% of the world’s population, are currently living in a country other than that of their birth. Index data has also showed that in the European Union in 2016, the proportion of all people born in another country who were university educated was 29% – up three percentage points from 2011.

This flow of workers appears to be counterbalancing the issue many countries face of an ageing population. Excluding India, the working age population across all countries in the index is set to decline by nearly one million people in 2017 as populations’ age.

However, because of rising participation rates in 25 of the countries in the index and the number of migrants being higher and more skilled than ever before, the supply of workers will actually increase by 1.1 million.

Since the release of the report in 2012, Singapore’s score has fluctuated from a high of 5.1 in the same year, to a low of 4.1 in 2014, an increase to 4.7 in both 2015 and 2016 to its current score now of 4.3.

It is currently the second lowest score in the region along with Hong Kong. China currently has the lowest score at 4.0 with Japan the highest at 5.7.

Contributing to a decrease in Singapore’s score this year is the "talent mismatch" indicator that was 6.1 last year and is now 5.9.

However, it’s expected this particular indicator could increase again in future years due to Singapore’s rapidly ageing population and labour market pressures due to the stringent work visa measures in place on foreign nationals.

Lynne Roeder, Managing Director of Hays Singapore believes that Singapore’s score is as a result of the Singaporean government restricting the movement of skilled foreign workers into the country.

“Organisations will need to get better at aligning talent with opportunity. Organisations can stand still and face the consequences later or adapt to changing circumstances and come out unscathed when it comes to sourcing local and qualified talent,” she says.

“They will need to look differently at how they source talent whether that’s investment in new technology or introduce measures that sees current and potential employees undergo ‘upskilling’ where appropriate to ensure they also can adapt to meet new challenges. This will, of course, require buy-in from individuals to adapt to the ever-changing world of work in Singapore.”

An overall score of above 5.0 indicates that the labour market is ‘tighter’ than normal. A score below 5.0 indicates the market is ‘looser’ than normal. Within these overall scores, however, the scores attributed to each of the seven indicators can vary significantly, highlighting the different dynamics and pressures faced by each country.

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