Most desirable industries for Malaysian and Singaporean talent to work in

The professional services industry – which include roles such as lawyers, architects, accountants, financial advisors, consultants, advertising professionals – is the most desirable career path for Malaysian job seekers.

This was according to RGF International Recruitment’s Talent in Asia report which analysed more than 3,500 responses about hiring trends across various industries in 11 Asian countries and markets.

With the digital revolution well-and-truly underway, technology, internet & telecommunications was the second most desirable industry for Malaysians. Rounding up the top five was healthcare & life sciences, industrial, and education.

Over in Singapore, the top five industries were: healthcare & life sciences; technology, internet & telecommunications; consumer & retail; financial services; and industrial.

When looking for a job, apart from getting into an industry of their choice, Malaysian talent have high expectations of salary and compensation. About two in five (44%) of local talent considered fair and competitive salary and compensation to be the most important factor when searching for a job, with 91% expecting a pay rise when switching jobs. The average expected salary increase was 17%.

Other factors Malaysian talent look at included top calibre colleagues, career advancement opportunities, as well as stable leadership and clear direction.


Singaporean talent have similar high salary expectations with 83% expecting a pay rise when switching jobs. The average expected salary increase was also 17%.

While the top three considerations were the same for Singaporeans – fair and competitive salary and compensation, top calibre colleagues, and career advancement opportunities; Singaporean talent placed greater importance on work-life balance than their Malaysian counterparts.


On the employer side, while the slight majority (54%) of Malaysians had optimistic growth outlook, the number of employers viewing the outlook as pessimistic (15%) was the highest among all Asian countries. While the remaining 31% took a neutral viewpoint. More than half (59%) were looking to expand headcount, 17% wanted to downsize, while 23.1% had no hirng plans.

A  similar percent of Singaporean employers were optimistic (53%), while the remaining took a neutral viewpoint (47%) and none were pessimistic about business growth. More than half (59%) were looking to expand headcount, 17% wanted to downsize, while 23.1% had no hirng plans. While a similar percent (57.9%) were looking to expand, more (26.3%) wanted to downsize, and 15.8% had no hirng plans.

When hiring, the top quality Malaysian employers look for was industry knowledge and experience (56%), followed by a strong sense of accountability (18%) and agility (15%).

Faced with hiring challenges including talent shortage (49.2%), low hiring budgets (18.7%), and the struggle to find talent to fit their company culture (13.1%); employers in Malaysia looked to promoting from within as a solution to plug the talent gaps.


The report also revealed the priorities of Malaysian employers outside of hiring which included improving the employer brand (46.3%); reviewing salary, compensation, and benefits to match market competitiveness (21.7%), and talent management and succession planning (15%).

Ai Ling Lee, Managing Director, RGF Executive Search Malaysia, said: “Core competencies matter, but employers must not forget about the growing disposition towards other talent attraction factors, such as flexible working arrangements and work-life balance strategies.”

A similar situation was seen in Singapore with employers looking for the same qualities in candidates – industry knowledge and experience (58%), a strong sense of accountability (26%) and agility (12%) – and facing the same set of challenges – talent shortage (84%), low hiring budget (10%), and company culture mismatch (12.4%).

While their Malaysian counterparts looked to promoting from within to fill talent gaps, the top solution for Singaporean employers to combat the talent shortage was to boost internal recruitment teams.


When it comes to employment priorities outside of hiring, Singaporean employers shared similar sentiments as their Malaysian counterparts. About two in five (42%) looked to improve the employer brand, 20% do more for talent management and succession planning, and 12% wanted to review salary, compensation, and benefits to match market competitiveness.

James Miles, Managing Director RGF International Recruitment – Singapore, said: “HR teams will have to work cross-functionally to ensure the current workforce and talent pipeline is capable of meeting the future needs of the business.”

Other key findings from the Talent in Asia report include:

  • 66% of talent in Asia said fair and competitive compensation is their highest priority when switching jobs. This came before work-life balance and career advancement opportunities.
  • 24% of talent across the world wanted to relocate to Singapore for work – more so than any other market, including Mainland China, Europe and North America.
  • 22% is the average salary increase talent across all industries expected when changing jobs.
  • 71% considered the shortage of talent their biggest hiring challenge, across all industries and countries.
  • 37% said expanding internal talent acquisition teams are key to boosting their recruitment solutions.
  • 42% of employers understood they need to improve their employer branding to attract and retain top talent.

Infographics / RGF International Recruitment
Photo / 123RF

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