Threats and Opportunities of Demographic Change: Asia


The landscape for recruitment is changing far more dramatically than many employers realise. Adapting to the new dynamics will be essential for financial groups seeking not only to hire the best, but also to grow sustainably into new regions of the world.

Recruitment Strategy

In a 2009 paper published in the Journal of International Management, Schon Beechler and Ian Woodward, affiliate professors at the INSEAD business school, argued that the “increasing mobility of people and organisations” makes the business environment in general “more demanding and complex”.

The capacity of organisations to attract, develop, motivate and retain talent will remain a critical strategic issue for the 21st century’s knowledge economies.

“Despite today’s global financial circumstances,” the pair write, “the capacity of organisations to attract, develop, motivate and retain talent will remain a critical strategic issue for the 21st century’s knowledge economies.”

Asia’s Offer

Asia presents an enticing prospect for financial companies. An increasingly affluent middle class is driving demand for finance sectors, such as private banking, asset management, treasury and insurance services. In addition, an improving corporate governance and regulatory landscape is creating a need for more professionals with internal audit, tax and regulatory skills.

An example of this can be found in Singapore, one of Asia’s main financial hubs. The number of fund management groups based there grew substantially in 2014. From 158 firms based on the island city at the end of 2013, within 12 months this had increased to 289, a rise of 83%.

The population in the financial services industry in Asia will definitely grow and seize a larger share of the workforce from some other industries. Kuala Lumpur is an up-and-coming financial centre, helped by its history of commodities production and, more recently, its blossoming technology sector.

Accessing Growth

Growth may be easy to see in Asia, but it is not easy to access. Asia is a big continent of 3.5 billion people in 26 countries. There are more than 150 languages with many unspoken rules about business, culture and trust. What can be done in one country may be totally impossible in another.

Willis Financial Risk Index 2025

This is an extract from the Willis Financial Institutions Risk Index 2025. Click here to download the entire report

Despite a more affluent and educated workforce, some Asian economies will soon face a demographic challenge of their own. In China the one-child policy introduced in 1980 and the traditional preference for males has led to a generation of men with “little or no prospect of marrying”, according to a June 2014 article published by Allianz. In 2025, China’s population will still be growing, but an estimate from the United Nations predicts it will peak in 2035.

Demographic Challenges

To address the demographic shifts, businesses will need to continue with the drive to raise productivity through business restructuring, workforce retraining and talent retention. It may also require companies to recruit foreign employees themselves.

Data from the United Nations shows a dramatic increase in the number of foreign workers in Asia’s leading economies, with South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia all seeing their nonnative populations rocket since 1990.

Presence in these growing economies is seen as vital by most financial groups with aspirations outside their home country’s borders. Competition for talent is getting fiercer than ever, as local companies grow and gifted individuals begin to see more opportunities to succeed in their chosen field far closer to home.



Tony MitchellGuest blogger Tony Mitchell is the Willis Leader of Financial Institutions Group in Asia. Based in Singapore, Tony has more than 30 years’ experience in London, Hong Kong and Singapore, and has been with Willis since 2012.

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