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Engineers, product managers most sought-after by Singapore and regional tech firms amid talent crunch: Report

SINGAPORE — With a talent shortage in the technology sector, workers who take up such roles in Singapore are paid much higher than their Southeast Asian counterparts, a new report has found.

Engineers, product managers most sought-after by Singapore and regional tech firms amid talent crunch: Report

American and Chinese technological companies entering the Southeast Asian region are more likely to pay above-market rates for tech talent, a new study noted.

  • A new study has found that there is a tech talent crunch in Southeast Asia, including Singapore
  • In particular, there is a shortage of engineers and product managers
  • In both types of roles, those in Singapore are paid the highest compared to their regional counterparts
  • American and Chinese tech companies are more likely to pay above-market rates for tech talent, the report said
  • Hiring for technical roles is a challenge regionally due to competition from larger firms such as Lazada and Grab

 

SINGAPORE — With a talent shortage in the technology sector, workers who take up such roles in Singapore are paid much higher than their Southeast Asian counterparts, a new report has found.

American and Chinese technological companies entering the region, including TikTok, Tencent, Alibaba and Zoom, are more likely to pay above-market rates for tech talent. In some cases, they may even write blank checks for high performers.

This talent crunch is not just in Singapore, where engineering and product manager roles are in high demand, but also in the region.

These were the findings published in a report titled The Southeast Asia Tech Talent Compensation. It was released by venture capital firm Monk’s Hill Ventures and recruitment firm Glints on Tuesday (March 30).

The report noted that in Singapore, a senior software engineer may receive a base pay of anything between US$4,000 (around S$5,400) and US$11,000 (S$14,800).

In comparison, the salary for the same position at an Indonesian tech startup may range from US$1,400 to US$2,800. In Vietnam, the salary ranges from US$2,000 to US$4,000. 

The findings were based on surveys of 175 startup tech executives and interviews with more than 20 founders of tech firms across Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam done between last October and February this year. 

Among the startups surveyed were Singapore home nursing and therapy firm Homage as well as Vietnamese e-commerce platform Telio.

The report said that as three of the fastest-growing tech markets in Southeast Asia, interest in hiring across Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam has grown.

“For US and China tech companies, Southeast Asia is considered a more affordable market to hire tech and non-tech talent,” it added.

The report comes in the midst of concerns over a tech talent crush worldwide.

In TODAY’s Big Read in February, which cast a spotlight on top tech firms setting up operations here, experts interviewed had warned that the tech talent crunch in Singapore could be more severe than other nations due to its small size. 

In an October 2019 commentary, Ms Karen Tay, a director in the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group, had said that “hardly a day goes by” without a Singaporean employer discussing the issue of talent shortage in the tech sector with her.

ENGINEERS MOST ‘IN-DEMAND’

In the latest report on the pay of Southeast Asian’s tech talent, engineers are the most “in-demand” in Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Salaries for engineering positions were among the highest for tech startup roles. Engineers in Singapore were paid the highest across all three regional markets.

For instance, a senior mobile developer in Singapore could make between US$3,500 and US$8,500.

This is comparatively higher than those in Indonesia who earn between US$1,400 and US$2,800 and in Vietnam, where they make between US$2,000 and US$3,500.

The report noted that anecdotally, the starting monthly salaries for fresh graduates in engineering positions in Singapore was between US$4,500 and US$6,000, with American and Chinese big tech companies “hiring (them) aggressively”.

PRODUCT MANAGERS ALSO HIGHLY PRICED

Similar to engineering expertise, talent in product management is also one of the most priced in Southeast Asia, the report said.

As with engineering, those holding product management roles in Singapore were among the highest-paid across all three regional markets. 

In Singapore, a senior product manager may earn US$3,300 to US$6,900. The salary range for the same position in Indonesia is US$1,700 to US$3,000. In Vietnam, it is US$2,000 to US$5,000.

However, product managers whose job scope requires fewer technical skills tend to earn less than those who have to deal with larger engineering complexities, the report said.

Remote working as a result of Covid-19 has also made firms more inclined to hire people for this position from outside of the countries and not where the firms are based, it noted.

JOBS RELATED TO DATA SCIENCE

People who are skilled in data science such as data analysis and data engineering are the third-most sought-after talent among startups across the three markets, the study found.

“Singapore continues to be a hub for data scientist tech talent with its larger talent pool and high-tech infrastructure. For example, Indonesian ride-hailing company Gojek currently houses its data science team in Singapore,” the report noted.

A senior data scientist working at a Singapore-based startup could earn anywhere between US$3,500 and US$8,500. This was much higher than the pay ranges for the same position in Indonesia and Vietnam. In Indonesia, this range was US$1,400 to US$2,300 and in Vietnam, it was US$2,000 to US$5,000. 

When asked if the higher salaries in Singapore for tech positions such as engineers was due to the higher earning power of people here, Mr Oswald Yeo, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Glints, acknowledged that salaries in Singapore are “naturally higher” compared to the rest of the region regardless of the job.

However, Mr Yeo said that a mismatch in demand and supply for tech talent in Singapore is also driving up salaries here for tech roles.

“We have observed that many local businesses are now starting to realise that they can adopt a distributed talent strategy across the region to augment their teams in Singapore by building up talent hubs in other parts of Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. This allows them to get the right talent to grow their businesses faster," he told TODAY. 

COMPETITION FROM BIG PLAYERS

The report concluded that across the Southeast Asian region, hiring talent, especially in sought-after technical roles, has become a challenge. This is mainly due to competition from larger companies such as Shopee, Lazada and Grab that offer better salary packages and benefits.

What was noteworthy was that the Covid-19 pandemic had led to more rational decision-making by companies on how much compensation they will offer and what type of tech talent they will prioritise.

Founders of tech firms said that to beat competition from bigger companies, a firm must showcase its culture, its product innovation and strong leadership. 

Related topics

talent crunch Jobs Technology salary pay

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