Diversity awareness improves but inequality still widespread in organisations across Asia

While working professionals in Asia are gaining more knowledge on the positive impact of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace, the slow implementation of D&I practices has resulted in only marginal progression in the region, reveals the latest Diversity & Inclusion report by leading recruitment experts Hays.

The findings of the 2019/2020 version of this annual report are based on survey responses from close to 2000 working professionals based in China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. 87 per cent of respondents were born in Asia, 54 per cent were female, and 39 per cent held managerial positions. The survey covered personal experiences of the respondents with D&I in their workplaces, as well as their perceptions of its practice within and impact on their organisations.

Understanding of equality prevalent

When asked their opinion on which areas D&I practices would have the most impact on their organisation, 76 per cent of respondents in Asia chose ‘company culture’, the top choice for the second year in a row. 59 per cent voted ‘innovation’ as the second area most positively impacted, demonstrating a nuanced understanding of workplace dynamics within the region. 53 per cent voted ‘retention of talent’, knocking last year’s choice of ‘organisation leadership’ out of the top three running.

Perceptions of equality remain relatively high as well, with 38 per cent of respondents feeling they had the same career opportunities for career progression as equally capable peers, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender or socio-economic background. 35 per cent felt their chances were ‘somewhat equal’.

Slow but improving diversity

Last year, 39 per cent of respondents across Asia said their line mangers were female. This year, the number has marginally moved up to 40 per cent. Overall, 57 per cent of respondents across Asia believed their organisations had diverse leadership teams, a potentially higher regional average that was brought down by Japan’s low score of only 27 per cent who agreed. China scored the highest, with 70 per cent agreeing.

Across the region, however, only 40 per cent of respondents said there has not been any occasion where they felt excluded from participation at work because of their age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. This leaves one third of respondents having faced some form of discrimination, with over half saying this had happened to them in the last year.

Perception of leadership bias at a high

Despite relatively high diversity within leadership teams, the role of leaders in D&I continues to come under the microscope. 60 per cent of respondents believed that those in leadership positions were biased towards promoting others who look, think or act like them, while 59 per cent felt this way about hiring processes.

This perception is further cemented by 72 per cent considering unconscious bias training for leadership to have a direct positive impact on the hiring of more diverse talent. However, only 49 per cent of organisations provided such training – a figure skewed by the high 64 per cent in China.

In Singapore: A regional hub for cultural acceptance but ageism on the rise

Results of the report show that most respondents in Singapore felt their day-to-day work life was relatively free from discrimination. 57 per cent said that they had never been excluded from participation at their current place of work for D&I reasons, the highest proportion to say so in the region. Of those that had felt excluded, 60 per cent said that it had not occurred in the last 12 months, with only respondents in Hong Kong (61 per cent) showing a higher proportion. Singapore is also considered one of the world’s best nations for gender equality, a claim backed up by our report, where 67 per cent of those surveyed said genders were equal when it came to pay and rewards – up from 48 per cent in 2017.

However, one area of discrimination that may be prevalent in Singapore is ageism. The report showed one third of surveyed respondents saying age was a factor that could lower their chances of being selected for a job. In comparison to the rest of Asia, only respondents in China (44 per cent) saw it as a greater concern. In addition, 28 per cent said that age affected the equality of career opportunities, while 28 per cent said that salaries were influenced. Both figures were the highest in Asia.

Grant Torrens, Regional Director at Hays Singapore commented, “The Singapore government has long acknowledged the issue of ageism; and in a country where the pursuit of ‘innovation’ – a concept indelibly linked to the dynamism of youth – is paramount, the chance of employees and candidates being discriminated against due to their age is heightened. Companies must take heed of this and educate or inform employees on such issues that could tarnish the otherwise inspiring diversity profile in Singapore.”

To learn more about the 2019/2020 Hays Asia Diversity & Inclusion report, please click here.

About Hays

Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Asia Pacific and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe and Latin America. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 30 June 2019 the Group employed 11,500 staff operating from 265 offices in 33 markets across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2019:

– the Group reported net fees of £1,129.7 billion and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £248.8 million;

– the Group placed around 81,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 254,000 people into temporary assignments;

– 18% of Group net fees were generated in Australia & New Zealand, 27% in Germany, 23% in United Kingdom & Ireland and 32% in Rest of World (RoW);

– the temporary placement business represented 57% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 43% of net fees;

– Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA