Companies in Singapore to tread with caution on salary increments in 2021


Singapore, November 19, 2020 – Mercer’s annual Total Remuneration Survey (TRS) for 2020 has revealed that the overall salary increase projected in 2021 for Singapore will soften only slightly to 3.5 per cent compared to 3.6 per cent in 2020.


Many organizations in Singapore are continuing to take a cautious approach to salary increments as they navigate the impacts of COVID-19. Heading into 2021, the survey showed that a quarter of organizations (25%) will implement or continue salary freezes while 3 per cent have indicated they will implement salary reductions. That compares with 30% who implemented salary freezes and 29% who made salary reductions this year. Most however are taking a wait-and-see approach.


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 energize 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 digitalization.”


Mercer’s flagship annual compensation and benefits benchmarking study, the Total Remuneration Survey, identifies key remuneration trends and predictions for hiring and pay for the year ahead. This year, 992 companies across 16 industries participated in Mercer’s Singapore survey.


Salary increments to differ across industries, with Lifestyle Retail experiencing the sharpest dip


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


However, looking to the year ahead across the industries surveyed, increments for the Banking & Finance and High-Tech sectors will remain stable while the Logistics and Consumer Goods industries are expecting incremental growth (3.3% and 3.5% respectively compared to 3.1% and 3.4% in 2020). 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 per cent in 2020 to 2.9 per cent in 2021.


Kulapalee Tobing, Career Products Leader, Singapore, said “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.”


Rewarding digital talent to drive digitalization efforts


The survey found the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalization across all Singapore businesses. Many organizations are facing increased competition for talent to support digitalized business initiatives.


Mercer’s survey revealed that the most in-demand roles are for Data Scientists, IT solution Architects, Business Intelligence Analysts, and Cyber Security Engineers. Compared to the general market, roles that support digitalization will attract salary premiums especially at senior and specialist levels. For example, specialists with capabilities in cybersecurity incident response analysis and robotic process automation are expected to receive a 33 per cent and 30 per cent premium respectively on the median annual base salary. 


“Organizations 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,” said Ms Tobing.


Focus on benefits to energize employees and win the talent race


Although affordability is a key criterion for making decisions on salary increases, many organizations are taking a holistic view to redesign the work experience for their employees, including to provide additional incentives and benefits.


Nearly a third of employers in Singapore surveyed (30%) 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. For example, telemedicine providers such as Doctor Anywhere reported a 156 per cent increase in digital active users, and MyDoc recorded a 147 per cent increase in the last year.


Additionally, half of employers in Singapore surveyed (50%) 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.


Ms Tobing concluded by saying, “Mercer’s TRS Survey is a useful and holistic resource for business leaders to make informed decisions regarding their people strategies, especially in this time of uncertainty. We have partnered with our clients to help them better design agile and employee-centric reward packages so they can stay ahead of the curve.”


About Mercer’s Total Remuneration Survey


The Total Remuneration Survey, Mercer’s flagship annual compensation and benefits benchmarking study, identifies current pay practices and benefits policies, as well as budget, hiring and turnover trends for the year ahead. In addition, Mercer also conducts regular pulse surveys throughout the year to keep up with the impact of the rapidly changing business environment and compensation and workforce trends.


For more data and insights from Mercer’s Singapore Total Remuneration Survey 2020, please see here.

About Mercer

Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s approximately 25,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 85,000 colleagues and annual revenue of over $20 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on LinkedIn and Twitter.