Is Returning Asian Talent Key to the Budding South-east Asian Economy?

Is Returning Asian Talent Key to the Budding South-east Asian Economy?

by September 5, 2016

South-east Asia’s rapid economic progression is bringing it further up the ladder in the global race to capitalist success, and with this boom in local potential comes a new drive for white-collared talent. There is now an ever-expanding number of opportunities and incentives for qualified, South-east Asian people living overseas to return to the exciting region for work. And people are coming. And so many (Fintech) Startups would need them….

Robert Walters’ 2015 campaign “Balik Kampung with Roger Walters”, or roughly “Return Home with Roger Walters”, was a key factor in promoting this new demand. Now working across the South-east Asian region, Walters aims to generate and maintain a consistent flow of returning professionals keen to continue their careers in their home country.

Looking to help build the South-east Asian Economy, Walters helps connect local businesses with the employees they are looking for, through an understanding of four key things:

1) What is the demand?

2) What brings them home?

3) What keeps them here?

Picture Credit: Fotolia

Picture Credit: Fotolia

Supply and Demand

There are over 5 million South-east Asians currently working overseas, with a vast proportion of that being from Vietnam. Asians choose to leave their countries for a number of reasons, the most common of which are closely related to salary and career progression. People look for more attractive job opportunities, exposure to new cultures and lifestyles and the chance to move their careers forward.

And now, we want them back. There is a range of driving factors behind South-east Asia’s new demand for returning overseas workers. In Singapore, this push is down to its rapidly maturing market creating a high rate of job openings for top-quality, experienced professionals; hiring budget constraints is a common issue in Indonesia; and in Vietnam and other less developed markets, many hiring managers regularly face local candidates the lack in the skill sets they require.


Locals who have lived and worked overseas have the edge on those who have not left their country. They have a global mindset but still relate to and understand the nation’s culture and language far better than any expatriate.

What brings them home?

An average of 76% of all overseas South-east Asians is interested in returning home. 85% of Indonesians living overseas express interest, while 82% of overseas Singaporeans and 70% of Vietnamese are returning home for work. There are a number of pulling factors, largely to do with family or affinity to the local culture and lifestyle.

Picture credit: Fotolia

Picture credit: Fotolia

Being able to effectively hire an overseas South-east Asian professional relies on an understanding of their concerns about returning home, and what they want from their job. Many want to enjoy the same things that they left their countries for originally, from a higher salary to a better working lifestyle.


Overseas locals from different South-east Asian countries are looking for different jobs when they return home. Statistically, many returning Singaporeans and Thais are interested in sales and marketing as well as banking and IT, while most other South-east Asians living overseas look for work in the finance sector. Over 80% of overseas South-east Asians are hesitant to come back before first securing a job that they are happy to return to.


Given these candidates’ demand for high salaries and quality of life, hiring managers will need to be careful to maintain balance between budget constraints and choosing the right people to work with. At the end of the day, the right candidate pays for themselves in their work.

Keeping their interest

Many people working overseas feel concerned about what their quality of life will be back in their home country.


Given this, there are a number of things that employers can do to attract overseas returnees and keep them happy in their new context, from offering an attractive salary increment to creating holistic packages, benefits and tangible career progression prospects.

The most important component in maintaining staff members of any kind is to make attractive but realistic promises, and then follow through on time. Overseas South-east Asians have every potential of leaving their home country for a second time if they do not like their working situation, so companies must be careful to maintain their interest.


Ensuring a quality life-work balance for employees and providing ample and interesting opportunities for career progression are key. Employers can also help ease their new employee’s transition back into local life, offering to pay for shipping of personal items, helping to find accommodation or allowing a few weeks of time off initially for the returning employees to find their feet.

All information and graphics were gathered from this Robert Walters Whitepaper.