Southeast Asian nations will be amongst those countries expected to see the fastest rate of salary increase in 2022 versus 2021 as their economies recover. This includes Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia as their economies begin to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and international travel resumes, according to the latest Salary Trends Report by ECA International.

Workers in Malaysia and Indonesia will see a real salary increase of 2.8% and 2.5% on average respectively. ECA's regional director Lee Quane explained that Malaysia and Indonesia were among the countries most impacted by the pandemic and are expected to see some of the biggest jumps in rates of salary growth in Asia Pacific in 2022 compared to 2021, as their respective economies start to return to normality after the pandemic.

"If these countries are able to keep inflation under control in 2022, the improved economic outlook will mean that real salary increase rates for workers in these countries will be some of the highest in the region," he said.

Meanwhile, those in Singapore can expect to see a higher increase in their salaries next year, with expected average salary increases of 3.5%. After factoring in inflation, which looks set to remain around the same levels as this year at 1.5%, employees in Singapore will see a real salary increase of 2.0% on average, up from 1.2% this year, 

According to Lee, just 6.0% of companies based in Singapore will implement a pay freeze in 2022, significantly down from the 22.0% that put in a pay freeze this year. "This all points to a much-improved outlook for workers in Singapore as the economy gradually recovers from COVID-related restrictions and uncertainty, Quane said.

Workers in Hong Kong will see their salaries increase at a faster rate in 2022 than in 2021, although not as fast as many other Asian nations. Salaries are set to rise by 3.2% on average in 2022 and after factoring in the forecasted 2.1% inflation for next year, and ECA said this means workers in Hong Kong will be left seeing a real salary increase of 1.1% - almost double the real salary increase of 0.6% that was seen this year.

"Those in Hong Kong will be pleased to see that their salaries are set to increase again next year, with a much needed 3.2% boost on average before inflation. However, when compared to the salary increases seen in other Asian nations, Hong Kong still lags behind many of its neighbours," Quane said.

Workers in Singapore and Taiwan are predicted to see bigger salary increases in 2022, both forecast to see increases of 3.5%, while employees in China are expected to see an average salary increase of 5.8%, he added. Taiwan saw a slight jump in the forecasted average salary increase – up to 3.5% in 2022 compared to 3.2% this year and in real terms, an increase of 2.0% compared to 1.6% this year.

Overall, workers in Vietnam and China will see the top two highest real salary increase next year, at 4.2% and 4.0% respectively. Quane explained that at this point in time, workers in China are expected to see the second largest real salary increase in Asia Pacific next year. However, there are several threats to this which include the extent to which China's zero-COVID policy may impact economic growth as well as the potential for inflation rates to surpass forecasted levels in 2022.

As in previous years, the Asia Pacific region is expected to lead the way once again in terms of salary increases for workers with a predicted average real increase of 1.9% across the region. This is higher than any other region, with the global real salary increase forecasted to be just 0.9% on average.

“Although some regions, such as the Americas and Africa and the Middle East, have a higher nominal increase forecasted, the Asia Pacific region is predicted to have much lower levels of inflation in 2022. This means that once inflation is taken into account, workers in Asia Pacific will see a much higher real salary increase than anywhere else in the world,” Quane explained.

Outside of Asia, the outlook looks set to be much more mixed as the average salary increase globally is predicted to be 4.6%. However, when factoring in the higher levels of inflation elsewhere in the world, the real salary increase worldwide will be just 0.9%, ECA found.

Despite many Asian nations expecting to see improved consumer buying power with real salaries increases both this year and next, Quane said the same unfortunately cannot be said for every country as supply chain issues and rising gas prices have fuelled inflation while the effects of the pandemic continue to take their toll on salary increases for many.

"This trend looks set to continue for workers in many locations who will see decreases to their salaries in real terms next year, as inflation outstrips any nominal increase. This is even the case for a major economy such as the United States where workers will see a 0.5% decrease in real terms,” said Quane. Argentina is once again at the bottom of the rankings with a forecast real salary decrease of 10.0% in 2022, despite the fact that inflation is predicted to halve to 25.0% in from 51.4% this year.

ECA's Salary Trends Survey 2021/2022 reports current-year salary increases for local national employees and the anticipated increases for reviews in the forthcoming year. It is based on information collected from over 370 multinational companies for over 70 countries and cities.

The forecast average real salary increase in a country is calculated by looking at the predicted average nominal salary percentage increase (i.e. the salary increase given to employees by their employers) and subtracting the forecast inflation. For example, if the average nominal salary increase in a country is 4% and inflation is at 2.1%, this would result in an average real salary increase of 1.9% (4%-2.1%=1.9%).

Data is based on increases including merit. Including merit is the total salary increase and represents general cost of living/inflationary increases plus performance/merit related increases. The data above was collected from August to September 2021.

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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