Singapore’s overseas returnees don’t expect premium salaries, yet mismatched salary expectations persist

Despite the willingness of overseas returnees to earn a salary equivalent to what they were earning abroad or even take a pay cut, employers in Singapore say that their biggest hurdle in securing this group of talent is a mismatch in salary expectations.

These are a few of the key findings from the recently launched 2019 Hays Overseas Returnee Report, which highlights overseas returnee recruiting trends based on responses from both candidates and employers residing in the five Hays Asia operating markets: Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore.

In the survey, Hays asked returnees who have studied or worked overseas, ‘If you were working overseas, what were your salary expectations for your first job back in the country/region of your birth?’ The majority of respondents (45 per cent) said they expected to ‘earn a salary equivalent to what they were earning overseas’. At the same time, one in five (23 per cent) said they were ‘willing and did take a drop in salary’, while 32 per cent expected an ‘increased salary from what they were earning overseas’.

Similarly, Hays approached employers in Singapore to enquire about their challenges when securing overseas returnee talent. 65 per cent them stated ‘mismatch in expectations of offer packages’ as their most prominent reason, followed by ‘candidates with lack of local work experience’ (36 per cent) and ‘candidate drop out’ (22 per cent).

Preferential salary offers

Overall, more number of employers in Singapore (54 per cent) are willing to offer preferential salary packages to overseas returnees with suitable experience over local talent. Over a quarter of employers (28 per cent) said they were willing to pay ‘up to 10 per cent more’ salary to overseas returnees, while 22 per cent were willing to offer ’11-25 per cent more’ salary.

Unsuitable job opportunities

When asked about their hurdles when searching for jobs in their home country, most overseas returnees (53 per cent) cited ‘unsuitable job opportunities’. Other notable challenges are ‘unsuitable remuneration’ (voted by 45 per cent) and ‘unfamiliarity with local job market conditions’ (voted by 39 per cent).

Across Asia

The most prominent challenge for employers across Asia in attracting and securing overseas returnees is the ‘mismatch in expectations of offer packages’ (61 per cent). For all five countries/regions, this is the biggest issue save for Japan where almost half (49 per cent) said the recruiting challenge derived from ‘candidates with lack of local work experience’.

Across the region, the majority of overseas returnee candidates cited ‘unsuitable job opportunities’ (52 per cent) as their main challenge when searching for jobs in their home geography. This was closely followed by ‘unsuitable remuneration’ (46 per cent) and ‘unfamiliarity with local job market conditions’ (38 per cent).

In the region, more employers are willing to pay a premium for overseas returnee talent than not, with only two in five (44 per cent) of them saying they would offer the same salary package –– as opposed to higher –– as they would for local talent. The least willing to pay more for an overseas returnee are Hong Kong employers (58 per cent), while the least likely to offer the same remuneration are Malaysian employers (37 per cent).

Where salary expectations are concerned, Malaysian returnees are the most predisposed to taking a dip in salary when returning to their home country. While two in five (43 per cent) of Malaysian returnees expect less pay than they were receiving in their overseas jobs, only three in ten (28 per cent) of returnees Asia-wide feel the same. Mainland Chinese returnees are the second most likely to accept a pay cut with a third of them (33 per cent) sharing these sentiments.

Grant Torrens, Regional Director at Hays Singapore, comments on the findings: “As skills shortages grow, the multitude of advantages that overseas returnees can bring to the table amplifies. Notwithstanding, the challenges that come with recruiting repatriated talent persist, and employers can stand to benefit from reviewing their current strategies when securing returnee candidates.”

“If the mismatch in salary expectation vs offer presents a challenge, then employers should address the values, beliefs systems and motivations of overseas returnees. Those keen on closing their skills chasm with candidates who have worked or studied abroad should have open conversations with their potential employee about the non-monetary benefits that could ease their transitions back into the local workforce.”

“On the other hand, overseas returnee talent should consider the business value they bring to the table and being realistic about the talent competition in the local employment market. Throughout the hiring process, they must be sure to highlight the skills unique to overseas returnees that are coveted by employers such as their language and communication skills and their cross-cultural awareness. In the meantime, it helps for them to revaluate their existing experience and skillsets, and thereafter upskill or reskill if needed.”

Download your copy of the 2019 Hays Asia Overseas Returnees report by clicking 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 31 December 2018 the Group employed 11,700 staff operating from 262 offices in 34 markets across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2018:

– the Group reported net fees of £1.072 billion and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £243.4 million;

– the Group placed around 77,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 244,000 people into temporary assignments;– 19% of Group net fees were generated in Australia & New Zealand, 26% in Germany, 24% in United Kingdom & Ireland and 31% in Rest of World (RoW);

– the temporary placement business represented 58% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 42% of net fees;

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