As we move into 2021 and organisations continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19, many are expected to continue taking a cautious approach to salary increments. 

According to Mercer’s annual Total Remuneration Survey (TRS) for 2020, the overall salary increase projected in 2021 for Singapore will soften slightly to 3.5%, compared to 3.6% in 2020.

Surveying 992 companies across 16 industries in Singapore, it revealed that 25% of organisations will continue salary freezes, while 3% intend to implement salary reductions in 2021. However, most have reported that they will be taking a wait-and-see approach. This year, 30% have implemented salary freezes and 29% have made salary reductions. 

Roles that support digitalisation to attract salary premiums, especially at senior and specialist levels

With the pandemic accelerating digitalisation across all Singapore businesses, in-demand digital talent can expect to receive large rewards. 

For instance, specialists with capabilities in cybersecurity incident response analysis and robotic process automation are expected to receive a 33% and 30% premium respectively on the median annual base salary.

Other in-demand roles include data scientists, it solution architects, business intelligence analysts, and cybersecurity engineers. 

Kulapalee Tobing, Mercer's Career Products Leader, Singapore, said: "Organisations will face increased competition for digital talent as they compete for talent with start-ups and eCommerce businesses, the gig economy, and the government. The good news is that the government remains committed to developing the nation’s tech ecosystem and recently announced plans to launch Tech.Pass, a new employment pass to attract highly skilled technology professionals to Singapore to strengthen its position as a leading tech hub in the region.”

Increments for banking & finance and high-tech will remain stable while lifestyle retail expects the sharpest dip

By industry, increments for the banking & finance and high-tech sectors will remain stable (3.3% compared to 3.1% in 2020) while the logistics and consumer goods industries are expecting incremental growth (3.5% compared to 3.4% in 2020). 

Meanwhile, the life sciences, real estate, chemicals, and lifestyle retail are expecting a dip in increments with lifestyle retail expecting the sharpest dip, from 3.3% in 2020 to 2.9% in 2021.

By seniority, base salaries moved significantly less compared to previous years especially at the management and executive levels, growing only 2% and 1.2% respectively between 2019 to 2020, compared to 6.8% and 7.1% for the 2018 to 2019 period.

Tobing explained: “The incremental growth in salary increases projected for 2021 in the logistics and consumer goods industries correlates with a shift in consumer purchasing behaviours to online. the steeper decline in the lifestyle retail industry is unsurprising given this shift, as well as lower discretionary spending capacities and reduced leisure activities resulting from the pandemic.”

Employers provide additional incentives and benefits in line with the increase in remote working

In line with the increase in remote working and flexible work arrangements in 2020, Mercer's survey found that many organisations are taking a holistic view to redesign the work experience for their employees, including to provide additional incentives and benefits.

For instance, 30% of employers in Singapore are looking to add or expand telemedicine or digital care to their health programs in 2021 to respond to the acceleration of digital health usage. Just over the last year, telemedicine providers such as Doctor Anywhere reported a 156% increase in digital active users, while MyDoc recorded a 147% increase.

Additionally, 50% of employers in Singapore will provide for or reimburse their employees for remote working expenses and are considering increased flexibility for onsite and remote working. Coverage for remote working expenses include internet service, laptops, and mobile phones.

Peta Latimer, Mercer’s CEO for Singapore, said, “Businesses continue to remain cautiously optimistic about the future and are considering more holistic talent strategies to energise their employees in the new shape of work, including additional incentives. Leaders are also looking ahead to attract and retain talent required to accelerate business digitalisation.”

Photo / 123RF

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