Asia: Upward Wage Pressure

There’s an atmosphere of uncertainty, even gloom, about employment in the US. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in California for September 2010 was  12.4% and there’s no immediate sign of improvement.

So the document that landed in my email box from IMA Asia [an international business climate assessment company for which I edit Asia Strategy papers] was bittersweet: A note from economist Glenn Levine about Asia’s wage outlook. It started with the following paras:

“Wage growth is picking up across Asia, attracting the
attention of policymakers and companies. Two factors are
driving this trend.

“The first is that Asia’s labour markets are surprisingly tight just 12 months after a global recession. The other key
factor is China, where tight labour conditions on the eastern
seaboard and a few high-profile labour disputes over pay
have attracted attention at the highest levels of the
Communist Party.”

It’s a different world out there. For China, it’s an interesting mix of high economic growth and the effects of its one-child policy on population growth. According to IMA Asia’s figures, its unemployment rate is 4.2% at present, and wages in the last ten years have grown about 10% points faster than inflation. They’re looking for upto 30% wage increases in some places, though wage pressure is much less away from the Eastern seaboard.

Nowhere in Asia is unemployment in the double digits.  Indonesia has 7.4%, the highest. In Thailand, it’s under 1%. In Singapore, it’s 2.3%. In Korea, 3.1% and in Malaysia, 3.4%.


India doesn’t publish unemployment data. (I think it stopped collecting them some decades ago when the government realized that unemployment was undefinable in the context of a predominantly rural subsistence economy.)

It seems, though, that wages in India are not quite keeping pace with inflation, which sounds as though there’s some slack in the economy. Still, according to IMA Asia, hiring intentions seem to be up and they’re prediction wage growth in the 15-20% per year range.

I always look forward to IMA Asia’s notes. They’re usually based on meetings with their client companies in Asia, and so they’re based not just on governmental statistics, but on what is actually happening on the ground. Right now, the story in Asia is very encouraging.

Edited to Add: Just after I posted this, my friend Sri shared this Youtube video:

Top American Graduates Heading to India for Employment

It’s about young Americans heading for Bangalore and its opportunities, especially in Information Technology.

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I'm an international Business Consultant; author of "India Business Checklists" published by John Wiley
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1 Response to Asia: Upward Wage Pressure

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