Recruitment in Asia- A Political Perspective

The fabric of Asia differs widely between each country, due to its size, range of cultures, environments, history, and government frameworks. Below is a brief snapshot of the environments in certain countries where Employment Agencies (EA’s) have operations.


Singapore has been a strong entry point for many EA’s who operate within Asia, particularly for industries such as: Finance, Life Sciences, Medical, R&D, Gaming and Animation.

Lenient immigration rules have made it straightforward for foreigners with experience, talent and knowledge to make Singapore their base.

EA’s have benefited from political and social stability due to the lack of insurrection clashes and religious extremism, as well as the steady and congenial labour market. The transparency of the legal and finance system, low corruption, low taxation, and multi-lingual workforce has all worked in the EA’s favour.


Red-tape, institutional deficiencies and corruption has deterred Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from EA’s, who tend to either partner with a local firm or use Thailand as a talent pool instead.

The political landscape is divided with rural supporters on one side, and the Royals, Military and Influential Elite on the other. Since 2006, Thailand has seen 6 government heads, numerous disruptions including the Bangkok airport siege, cancellation of the Asian Summit and the uprising of religious unrest in the South. World Bank indicators rated Thailand at 59.1 out of 100 in 2002 for political instability; in 2008 it plummeted to 12.9!

I can’t see Recruitment Companies rushing to open up shop in ‘The Land of Smiles’ anytime soon.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong provides a mature business infrastructure, capital, technology, managerial skills, technology, market knowledge, low taxation, transparent legal system (based on English Common Law) and access to Mainland China, All good news for EA’s operating there.
The increase in FDI into Hong Kong has meant that many firms have placed their high-end management, procurement, distribution, finance, information and professional service functions in the city, making HK a comfortable base for the EA’s operating there.


China is a melting pot of opportunity due to the continuous inflow of FDI. However it is still complex to set up operations and conduct business within China. Corruption and red-tape makes it difficult for EA’s to serve the region from within. Hence many opt to work the Chinese market from Hong Kong, building up a contact base and networks from ‘a distance’, before plunging in.
Politically speaking, reforms are underway in all regions, however there are variations in the set up of business regulations and their actual implementation across China cities. Watch this space.

Philippines tends to be a good source of candidates for EA’s, who use the talent there to recruit for their clients.

Corruption is widely publicised in Philippines, and many Filipinos leave their country to search for better prospects due to cost pressures, which makes this country an ideal talent pool for EA’s, as opposed to a fixed base.


Common complaints with Malaysia have been inflation, crime and government corruption, along with rigid political religious agendas. However EA’s operating in Malaysia, are positioning themselves to take advantage of the Third Industrial Master Plan (IMP3) 2006-2020. Here Malaysia is focusing on becoming a regional centre for real estate, transport, energy, telecommunications, distributive trade, hotel & tourism, financial and health services.
Malaysia’s politics can be difficult for a non-Malaysian EA to navigate. Additionally EA’s have cited that deep cultural sensitivities exist, so a straight ‘import’ of recruitment practices from the EA’s home nation doesn’t always work.
However, EA’s who serve the aforementioned industries are well placed to ‘piggy-back’ on proactive government initiatives, which aim to attract FDI. Watch this space.

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