Companies to cautiously renew hiring

Companies to cautiously renew hiring

Office workers attending a job expo wear face masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul
Office workers attending a job expo wear face masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

Following a year of hiring freezes, pay cuts and layoffs, many Thai firms are expected to cautiously renew hiring in 2021, but workers will likely not be rewarded with large salary increases for switching jobs as happened before the pandemic, according to a report by global recruitment firm Robert Walters.

The Robert Walters Salary Survey, which polled 570 organisations across Southeast Asia, found workers who switched jobs in Thailand last year either saw no salary increase or a relatively low range of 10-15% increase.

Previously workers in high demand sectors could expect increases as high as 30% for changing jobs.

Salary inflation for white-collar workers was quite high in Thailand in pre-Covid times, however it dropped considerably in 2020, and wages should begin to rise again this year, said Punyanuch Sirisawadwattana, country manager of Robert Walters Thailand.

"Looking ahead, while we expect to see more hiring activity in 2021, most employers will remain cautious," she said. "The majority of hiring will be for replacements, and both companies and professionals will likely be risk-averse in hiring or switching jobs."

But 2020 was not a complete washout for job seekers. Industries that profited from changing consumer habits spurred by the pandemic like fast-moving consumer goods, pharmaceuticals; supply chain and logistics; e-commerce; tech and digital; private wealth; and insurance all increased hiring activities last year.

Hiring in the Eastern Economic Corridor decreased thanks to significant setbacks to the automotive industry, while other segments like electronics and medical devices were not significantly affected by the pandemic.

Many firms hired internally for open positions instead of seeking outside talent as many hiring managers and management teams do not trust virtual communication as much as face-to-face interactions in the hiring process.

The report also found local firms are more open to hiring new talent this year than multinationals.

Workers with advanced tech and digital skills continued to be in high demand and in short supply, an ongoing trend in Thailand that was exacerbated by last year's lockdown that forced many businesses to pivot to digital operations.

But despite the high demand, only 37% of technology employees surveyed expected to receive pay raises this year. Conversely, 55% of the tech companies polled in the report plan to raise salaries in 2021.

According to Ms Punyanuch, Thailand faces an extremely short supply of cybersecurity experts for companies that need to secure their network and data for work-from-home employees.

"Thailand does not have a lot of talent in terms of cybersecurity and usually companies look overseas to hire for such positions," she said. "However, last year travel restrictions made it very difficult to get foreign workers into the country due to longer visa approval times and the two-week quarantine."

Jobs in human resources, insurance and healthcare also continued to be in high demand, and English proficiency continues to be an incredibly valuable asset for jobseekers.

Some 72% of professionals across industries will be looking for a new job this year. However, the figure is not significantly higher than normal as many employees passively stay informed about available job opportunities without making hard plans.

Many workers are desperate to jump once the job market recovers to move to a more resilient business sector or take advantage of emerging opportunities in the post-pandemic economy.

"Hope is on the horizon for the economy in 2021, with recovery expected to lead to more hires after a big freeze across industries," Ms Punyanuch said. "Once the market has a clearer oversight of the pandemic situation, the economy is expected to improve and hiring demand will recover."

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