2009 Quarter 1 HR Salary and Economic Outlook Report

The Chapman Consulting Group released its Quarter One, 2009 salary report for the HR profession across Asia Pacific Japan on 9 February, 2009. Our salary reports are based on our collective discussions during Quarter Four, 2008 with HR practitioners based in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai and Sydney on salary expectations for Quarter One, 2009.

Our salary report highlights the average base salary band for HR Head, HR Business Partner, Resourcing, Compensation and Beneifts, Organisational Development and HR Operations talent in both regional and local positions in the above locations. The bands take into account both existing HR positions, as well as new HR positions being recruited.

Overall Result

Since our last salary report was released on 23 October 2008, world economic events have impacted HR salaries in all five locations covered in our analysis. Expected average salaries for virtually all HR positions are not showing any increase for Quarter 1, and some positions are seeing a decrease of up to 10% in base salary.

We have not seen a widespread reduction in base salaries for existing HR positions. However for newly created roles, we are seeing HR positions banded lower than what was seen in Quarter 4 of 2008. This reflects two phenomena. Firstly, a surplus of HR talent is starting to hit the market, meaning that companies can now be choosier, and candidates are being more flexible on salaries. And secondly, organisations are being more conservative with their hiring, and are no longer breaking budgets to pay for candidates.

By Specialisation

HR Head, Training and Development, Organisational Development and Resourcing positions have been hardest hit in the salary stakes. For HR Head positions, the lower average salary band has fallen relative to Quarter 4 of 2008, but the upper band remains intact across all markets. Upper average salary bands have fallen for salaries in Training and Development, Organisational Development and especially Resourcing, with the lower average bands showing proportionately smaller decreases. Salaries for Compensation and Benefits, HR Operations and to a lesser extent HR Business Partners, remain largely unchanged from Quarter 4.

By Country

Singapore and Hong have seen the flattest growth in salaries, with identical trends in both markets. HR salaries in both markets have fallen by about 5% for Quarter 1 2009 relative to Quarter 4 2009, not due to cuts in salaries but largely as a result of new HR positions being recruited at lower salary levels. With many performance reviews happening in February and March, we expect HR salaries to see an average of 0-2% annual increment between now and Quarter 2 2009. Average Japan and China HR salaries look to have fallen by 3% since Quarter 4 2008. Australian HR salaries have shown little change, since worsening economic conditions had already made themselves felt in our Quarter 4 figures.

Local Versus Regional

Locally focused HR positions seem to have been better insulated from salary reductions than regionally focused roles. In tough times, the focus has gone back on to critical HR positions, and this has seen the elimination of some non-essential regional, coordination-based roles. This would appear to have impacted Singapore and Hong Kong to the largest extent, as these locations are where the largest concentration of regional HR positions can be found.

Looking Forward

As we move towards Quarter 2 2009, we feel that there will be continued pressure on HR salaries across Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and Sydney, as organisations look to further tighten headcount and freeze non-essential recruitment. Many HR practitioners, whether staying put or moving positions, will put greater emphasis on working in organisations that can ensure security and stability, with fewer basing career decision on that expectation of a financial upside. Perhaps this is a good time to remember that in Singapore, Hong Kong and China, HR base salaries rose dramatically between 2006 and 2008 and this was coupled with high bonuses.



The Chapman Consulting Group publishes an HR salary report each quarter covering the principal markets of the Asia Pacific Japan region. This report is based on discussions with HR practitioners across the region during the months of December 2008 and January 2009.


The figures used are for guaranteed fixed cash (base salary plus guaranteed bonus) and excludes any discretionary payment (such as variable bonus, stock options) as well as allowances. This report should be taken as a guide only. The Chapman Consulting Group bears no responsibility for errors or omissions therein.


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