Skip to content

Navigating Recruitment Challenges in Asia in 2022

By Juan Pierre Dorfling, Gough Recruitment Managing Director, Asia

Talent acquisition in 2022 is proving to be challenging for a variety of reasons, and the mid-term outlook is more of the same. For companies keen to acquire talent, future-proof the hiring process and build out a stable candidate pool, getting ahead of unfolding developments is essential. Read on to find out how to navigate recruitment challenges in Asia in 2022.

Skills shortages

Most of the countries in the Asia Pacific are experiencing a skills shortage, the result of changing post-pandemic work patterns, technological changes, the outward migration of skilled workers, an aging workforce, longer life expectancy and a lack of capacity to up-skill employees. It is a case of too few Hong Kong and Singapore workers with the right skills and experience and too many unfilled roles.

For example, the OECD reports that beginning in 2021, the “working-age population as a share of the total population will decrease over time in Southeast Asia.” Meanwhile, a 2021 survey by real estate and infrastructure consultancy Turner and Townsend found that 64% of the 90 surveyed markets faced a skills shortage that year, including Hong Kong, Seoul and Perth. This is driving wage growth against the backdrop of rising underlying inflation, among other recruitment challenges.

Back in 2017, a Construction Industry Council study found that Hong Kong was looking at a shortage of 10,000 to 15,000 skilled local construction workers through to 2022. In Singapore, Kenneth Loo, Executive Director of the Straits Construction Group, puts the local construction worker shortage at 50,000 workers.

Local and international recruitment challenges

With Baby Boomers retiring in ever-increasing numbers, and younger workers switching jobs more frequently, companies need to be prepared for comparatively higher staff turnover. This is increasingly an issue for temporary and contract workers as well as for permanent positions. We expect contract and temporary staff turnover to stay relatively elevated through the year.

With demand outstripping supply, many companies have turned to contract or temporary staff to provide mission-critical functions. Supply tightness of temporary and contract workers is prompting businesses to increase compensation accordingly. Therefore, a key determinant of hiring success will be retention and engagement initiatives for temporary and contract workers, which have not traditionally been the focus of such endeavours. For many companies this will require rolling out new HR programmes, feedback processes, and reward schemes.

Another key challenge on a global and local level is diversity. Women continue to be under-represented in the construction industry. McKinsey estimated just before the pandemic that women account for only 12% of the global construction industry, some 8% in the European Union, 10% in the US and 12% in Australia. Clearly more needs to be done to engage this demographic.

Uncertainty growing

While the economic recovery is still very strong following the COVID-19 and its after-shocks, storm clouds hover over the horizon. Supply chains continue to be disrupted, which is impacting construction materials supplies and pushing up prices. Meanwhile, the conflict in Ukraine, and subsequent energy-supply shock caused by sanctions is threatening the growth outlook. Inflation is climbing at a rapid rate worldwide. And in jurisdictions that maintain zero-COVID policies, most notably Mainland China and Hong Kong, economic disruption due to lockdowns will likely continue.

Pressing need for talent across all levels

The rapid economic growth following the successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccines means a wave of staffing demand emerged at the same time across many countries living through pandemic restrictions. Companies that put hiring plans on hold over the pandemic have found filling roles in construction, property and real estate challenging across the board, with recruitment challenges hitting them even harder.

New technologies require new skills

The area emerging as the most pressing when it comes to up-skilling the Asian construction and property workforce is technology. As we face the rise of automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, 5G, and the Internet of Things, just to name a few recent technological advances, the tech skills workers learned at school or university just a few years ago are not fit for purpose given today’s rapid changes. Technological recruitment challenges are a big issue at the moment, that needs to be addressed on a national level, be it a more rapid change in tertiary education programmes or developing a new concept of ongoing training and upgrading for the construction industry in the APAC region.


Navigating Recruitment Challenges 


Retain talent

Though most Asian companies have in the past year poured more resources into improving talent retention initiatives and policies, this is an area where more attention will pay dividends down the road. It is always best to invest into your current staff and make sure your company is the employer of choice than facing the recruitment challenges as they come.

Develop, grow, educate and train

A crucial element of successful talent retention programmes is holistically developing staff. Workers that feel they have room to grow and are challenged to the right level will stay longer.

Engage with recruiters

Recruiters usually do so much more than find the best candidates for you. They can identify hiring needs, flag weaknesses in the hiring and onboarding process, help devise hiring plans and so much more. Engaging with a recruiter is a cost-effective method of accessing the latest insights on the market and candidate pool alike.

Plan better

With market volatility rising, geopolitical risks climbing and economic fundamentals under strain, contingency planning is a prudent approach to safeguarding staffing levels. The pandemic proved that the unexpected does happen – and the companies that come out on top were the ones that were best prepared.

While today’s recruitment challenges are many and varied across Hong Kong and Singapore, with the right hiring strategy and tactics, and the support from recruitment professionals, businesses can chart a way to future-proofing their growth and development despite uncertainty.

More Posts

  • Recruiting during a Pandemic – a Note from Asia

    A snapshot of the current trends in recruitment by Juan Dorfling, Managing Director, Asia The skills gap is widening fast and COVID-19 pandemic will force innovation in the way we attract, hire and onboard world-class talent. As global uncertainty around COVID-19 continues to accelerate, how the pandemic will impact businesses…

  • Is Hybrid Work Here to Stay?

    Hybrid work is the new buzz phrase. With businesses experimenting to find the optimum blend of office and home-based working, the sweet spot is different for every organisation. Last year, we thought that 2021 would bring us back to something approaching ‘normal’ work conditions. Yet with Covid lockdowns continuing, it…

  • Top Tips for Best Work from Home Experience 

    Work from home is a relatively new concept and a buzzword in the world going through Covid-19 pandemic and constant lockdowns.  While the business is learning how to function remotely, employees are adjusting to their home office environments.  Whether you are an established employee in your organisation, or only looking…


Can’t find the right role?

Let our experienced consultants do the searching for you

    Find your next job