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Salary increases in Asia Pacific rebound for the first time in four years, Willis Towers Watson survey finds

Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences’ pay remains ahead while Financial Services lags behind


October 2, 2018

Salary increases in Asia Pacific saw a mild rebound this year for the first time since 2014.

Bangkok, December 5, 2018 — Salary increases in Asia Pacific saw a mild rebound this year for the first time since 2014. Averaging at 5.7% across 17 markets, salary increases are 0.1% higher than the 2017 average of 5.6%, according to the latest Salary Budget Planning Survey Report (Q3) by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), the leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.

This gentle upward trend is expected to continue through 2019 due to the region’s realistic outlook for business results this year. Sixty percent of surveyed organizations expect their company performance in 2018 to be in line with the prior year’s results.

APAC average salary increase (%) – 9-year analysis

APAC average salary increase (%) – 9-year analysis

On average, 16.8% of the salary increase budget is being allocated to top performers, which represent 12.8% of employees across the region. This implies that for each $1 allocated to an average or below-average performer, $1.44 is allocated to a top performer. The annual incentive for 2018 averaged at 1.5 months’ base salary, which amounts to 12% to 13% across the region. Incentives were on the average of 1.7 months for Thailand and Vietnam, however China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore were slightly higher.

Early projections for 2019 expect salary increases to be 0.1% to 0.5% higher compared to 2018, particularly in nine out of 17 markets including Thailand, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea. Salary movements will remain stable in Australia, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam.

When compared with other key markets in Asia Pacific, salary in Thailand is projected to increase at 5.3% in 2019, close to the regional average.

Comparing Thailand with key markets in the Asia Pacific region

Salary increase budget1 (%) - all-industries

Salary increase budget - all-industries

Pay for the Consumer Products industry remains ahead while the Insurance industry lags behind

The strong growth in the Consumer Products industry in Thailand is helping to keep the sector’s salary increases ahead of other industry sectors, which closely aligns with the region’s trend. On average, 2018 median salary increases in the Consumer Products industry was 0.3% higher compared to the general industry.

On the other end, salary increases in the Insurance industry still lag behind in the Thai market. On average, the 2018 median salary increase in the industry was 0.4% lower than the general industry trend.

Thai corporates need to get creative with their pay mix and reward strategies

The survey also reveals that 24% of companies in Thailand plan to add headcount in the next 12 months, especially those with technology skills. With post-millennials, also known as “digital natives,” starting to play a greater role in Thailand’s labor market, employers are faced with new challenges to find ways to attract skilled digital native talent.

Engineering and Information Technology (IT) also represent the top two functions where the skills are in demand locally. Reflective of this demand, fresh graduates can now command a minimum monthly starting salary of THB 18,000 (for IT), and THB 19,000 (for Engineering) as compared to average of THB 15,000 for other functions.

“Base pay and incentives have always been fundamental talent attraction and retention levers. However, our research and work with clients in Thailand provide evidence that organizations need to think beyond pay. The value of organizational culture, leadership, and other non-monetary rewards such as career development and opportunities should not be underplayed,” said Tony Kantapasara, Talent & Reward Business Leader at Willis Towers Watson Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

“Organizations can better formulate their pay mix and reward strategies through insights on the needs of their different workforce segments and the value of their contribution to the overall success of the business. For example, Baby Boomers and Post-Millennials will certainly have different behavioral drivers and incentive preferences, and having a plan for these variations will drive a more successful talent attraction and retention strategy”, added Tony.

1 Median, includes salary freeze (0% adjustment)
Source: 2018 Willis Towers Watson Salary Budget Planning Survey

About the survey

The Salary Budget Planning Survey is a bi-annual survey compiled by Willis Towers Watson Data Services. The survey, timed to coincide with companies’ compensation planning for 2019, looks at a range of industry sectors and job grades, focusing on salary movement and review practices.

The survey was conducted in June 2018. 3769 sets of responses were received from companies across 21 markets in Asia Pacific. Click to order the latest 2018 Salary Budget Planning Survey Report Q3 – Asia Pacific online.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has over 40,000 employees serving more than 140 countries. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential. Learn more at

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