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ASEAN’s tech talent crunch pushing up IT wages

Higher IT salaries were seen across the board in the region, with more than half taking home a bigger pay check last year

Over half of IT professionals in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) received a pay rise in 2019, underscoring the growing demand for tech talent in the region.

According to the latest Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT salary survey, 54% of 377 respondents reported getting an increment while 35% were given a bonus last year. About one in 10 enjoyed a bigger renumeration package that included stock options, while just 3% took a pay cut.

Not surprisingly, Singapore, as a mature market with relatively higher labour costs, was the best paymaster in the region. IT executives in the city-state with six to 10 years of experience earned an average of $66,406 last year, about three times more than what their peers in the region were making.

Given the tight IT labour market, about four in 10 IT professionals are open to new opportunities even though they are not actively looking for a new job, primarily to achieve better work-life balance and improve their skills. Across seniority levels, C-level executives and vice-presidents are more likely to stay put in their current roles.

Although much of their work can be done remotely, most IT professionals only work from home occasionally – even though work-life balance was cited as the most important perk among respondents. IT analysts appear to work from home more regularly, with four in 10 reporting that they do so once a week.

Like their counterparts in Australia and New Zealand, there is a lingering fear among ASEAN’s IT professionals that they may lose their jobs to automation. More than half were preparing for automation’s potential threat to their jobs by expanding their skills.

In terms of skills gaps, the respondents cited data analytics, security and cloud computing as areas where talent is lacking. More organisations are also looking to fill positions in project management and software architecture over the next 12 months.

Read more about IT in ASEAN

Women representation remains low in the region’s IT industry, with only 18% of IT teams having a good balance of women and men. Just 35% of companies planned to improve the gender mix.

According to a report by Google, Singapore state investment company Temasek Holdings and management consultancy Bain & Company, ASEAN’s booming digital economy grew 39% to hit the $100bn mark for the first time in 2019, spurring demand for IT talent across the region.

The region’s digital economy is set to grow twice as fast outside metropolitan areas, supporting new jobs and opportunities and increasing the need for investments to expand internet access in underserved regions.

Keeping up with this growth will be a challenge, however. The report noted that tight labour markets remain a pressing concern, as companies look for skilled workers to take on new roles created in the digital economy through upskilling programmes.

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