Jingjing Ma
Apr 2, 2019

Large pay gaps revealed in APAC communications world

New research from Prospect and PublicAffairsAsia finds significant disparities between the salaries of expat and local hires, as well as men and women.

Large pay gaps revealed in APAC communications world

While the average salary in the communications industry in Asia-Pacific increased this year, a report found that expats and men are paid more highly than local hires and women. 

The report, released last week in Singapore and Hong Kong, was produced by Prospect and PublicAffairsAsia after surveying 420 frontline practitioners across different areas of the communications and corporate affairs industry in Asia-Pacific.  

Professionals in Australia continue to earn the most, the report found, with the average salary there being US$165,000 compared to a regional average of $143,000. Workers in Hong Kong overtook Singapore with their average salary earnings in 2019, a shift from last year (although the sample base differs from year to year).

Although less statistically significant because fewer people were sampled there, communications employees in China reportedly earn above-average salaries of $164,000. Southeast Asia (excluding Singapore), meanwhile, records an average of $90,000, and professionals in Thailand earn the highest within this sub-region, at $114,000 each. 

Corporate affairs, corporate communications and public affairs topped the list of the highest earning divisions, whereas the lowest paid sectors included internal communications and public relations. 

Among the findings, however, were significant disparities relating to nationality and gender. 

Across the industry as a whole, expatriates earned an average of $170,000, while local nationals working in their home country earned $117,000, the report said. 

“Historically, firms hired expats into roles in APAC and offered very generous packages to entice them to Asia. Although these packages have been in decline for many years, the basic salary of these individuals is still much higher than local counterparts,” said Emma Dale, founder and co-managing director of Prospect, in an interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific

“However, with a huge drive to hire local employees with Asian language skills at all levels, I anticipate many more locals being hired into senior roles which were historically held by expats,” she said.    

The report also uncovered a big gap in pay between genders, with men earning $155,000, which equates to nearly 15% more, on average, than women across Asia-Pacific. 

Additionally, only about one third of those polled believed that the industry as a whole treats men and women equally on pay issues. However, when asked the same question about their own organisation, responses were more positive, with nearly 60% believing their company does pay men and women equally.  

“One way to address gender pay gaps in Asia is to update recruitment policies and procedures to bring them more in line with the American market, where current salaries are not disclosed,” Dale was quoted as saying in the report. “Many Asian employers still insist on understanding a candidate’s current compensation before deciding what to offer. If firms looked at the ‘value’ put on the role rather than an individual’s existing compensation, I would foresee the pay gap beginning to close.”  

The report also revealed that the problem of staff retention is still serious on the agency side. 

Some 45% of agency professionals want their next move to be in-house; by contrast, only 8% said they would prefer to move from their existing agency to another. 

This has been the trend for many years, since agency professionals want to “focus and specialize, to be ultimately fully responsible for one brand rather than work on several brands, to get deep knowledge of that brand and to get better pay and benefits,” Dale said to Campaign Asia-Pacific

“However, what we have noticed over the last year is that agencies have substantially improved the agency environment in terms of offering better career opportunities, benefits and working environment which has improved retention.” 

Join us to discuss more issues in the communications industry at CampaignComms 

CampaignComms is a one-day conference to explore hot topics and issues in the communications and PR industry in Asia. It will take place on June 12, 2019, in Hong Kong. More details coming soon at campaigncomms.com

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