January 31, 2011 12:33 am

Asia: MBA jobs market lifts off

If you are looking for a job, Asia is the place to be. This seems to be the unanimous view of headhunters, recruitment consultants and companies.

The latest Employment Outlook Survey by Manpower asked 64,000 human resource and recruitment managers around the world about their hiring intentions for the first quarter of 2011. The results show that India, China and Taiwan are the best places to look for a job in the new year.

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According to the global recruitment company, 42 per cent of employers surveyed in India planned to boost their companies’ domestic head count in 2011. In China, 40 per cent of executives surveyed said they would do so, and 37 per cent in Taiwan. The fundamental reason for these results is the record growth experienced by emerging economies such as India and China, compared with the anaemic recovery witnessed by developed nations.

“With workforces stretched so thin in recovering markets, we’re seeing companies experience a choke point as demand picks up – companies are either hiring very selectively and/or increasing their use of contingent labour,” says Jeffrey A. Joerres, chairman and chief executive of Manpower.

“The employment picture is very different in the Asia-Pacific market, where employers are feeling the talent crunch in the face of strong demand and are working hard to recruit and retain employees,” he says.

Given the slow recovery in the west, more companies are looking to launch businesses in emerging markets with economic growth and potential double-digit returns. This in turn has created enormous opportunities for MBA graduates.

According to the McKinsey Global Survey of December 2010, executives around the world expect at least half of their business this year to come from fast-growing emerging markets, boosted by a burgeoning consumer class.

“Emerging markets, with populations that are young and growing, will increasingly become not only the focus of rising consumption and production but also major providers of capital, talent and innovation,” the survey notes.

“To capture growth from emerging markets, the actions most often taken are building a local presence, developing partnerships or joint ventures with local companies, recruiting talent from emerging markets, and developing new business models.”

Given this shift of economic activity from developed to emerging markets, employers are looking for talent in developing economies rather than in the US and Europe, according to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management titled Global Talent for Competitive Advantage.

“Many are looking for talent in three areas: emerging markets (44 per cent), new talent entering developed labour markets (41 per cent) and talent from developing markets moving to emerging markets (35 per cent),” says the society’s report.

Ajit Rangnekar, dean of the Indian School of Business, says every multinational in the world wants to do business in India and China, creating a need for more Indian and Chinese graduates.

Looking back at 2010, it is clear that job opportunities in Asia have grown rapidly. The Indian Employment Outlook Index, an indicator used to predict employment growth, rose by 21 points during the year, driven by recruitment in the IT, retail and infrastructure sectors.

“India is going through a remarkably positive trend, like never before,” says Shiv Agrawal, chief executive of ABC Consultants, one of India’s biggest recruitment services groups. “In the past six months, our clients have been on a hiring spree and they see no slowdown in the foreseeable future.”

This view is confirmed by the Manpower report, which shows that hiring has been strong across all sectors.

“Indian employers in every industry sector and every region surveyed indicate they plan to continue adding to their payrolls in the first three months of the new year,” says Sanjay Pandit, managing director of Manpower India. “This is India’s strongest employment forecast since the fourth quarter of 2008, and hiring plans in the manufacturing industry are the most optimistic employers have reported since the India survey started in 2005.”

The country’s IT software and outsourcing industry, which generates roughly $60bn a year in revenues, is among the biggest recruiters in the nation due to the rise in global IT spend. Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys Technologies, the two largest IT groups in India, plan to hire 50,000 and 20,000 people, respectively, by the end of the year.

The battle for talent comes as the sector heats up in the aftermath of the financial crisis. “The bulk of the hiring happening now is for people with 4-8 years’ experience,” Sudhakar Balakrishnan, the chief executive of the Indian arm of Adecco, one of the world’s biggest temporary staffing groups, told the Times of India last month. “Due to the recession, the bench strength of most companies shrank and therefore they are now ramping up.”

Employee churn is also a matter of concern as demand for talent increases. With attrition levels at roughly 20 per cent in some sectors, companies are forced to raise wages substantially. “Larger companies are offering employees a hike of about 10-12 per cent and promising better career prospects,” says E. Balaji, chief executive of Ma Foi Management Consultants.

The financial services sector is also doing well in India and across Asia, according to ABC Consultants’ Agrawal. “Although the sector is still a little volatile due to the woes in the US and Europe, we see sustained hiring,” he says.

Several global banks that have cut jobs in the west, such as Barclays Capital, are believed to be expanding their operations in Asia, where demand is growing at a steady pace. The biggest beneficiaries of this shift in world finance are the graduates. Star students from the elite Indian Institutes of Management, for example, are securing jobs with top salaries.

Although the average wage for a graduate leaving a top business school in India is only about $30,000, most students are aiming much higher. The record offer made by Deutsche Bank in 2010 when it hired an IIM student in Calcutta for more than $300,000 is what many MBA graduates have in mind these days. Unlike in the past, they no longer have to move abroad to make that kind of money.

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