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Tokyo techies search in SG and HK for jobs

With jobs drying up in Japan, more and more IT professionals are eyeing up vacancies elsewhere in Asia, with Singapore and Hong Kong heading their hit list.

Matt Dunham, managing director at Singapore recruiters Confero, says in the last three months about a third of the foreigners his firm has placed in Singapore and Hong Kong IT roles have come from Japan. “We have seen more CVs from Tokyo since January, either people who have been laid off, or those feeling in a precarious position.”

Bruce Lepore, senior consultant, financial services technology, at Talent2 in Tokyo, has also noticed an increase in bankers heading abroad for finance tech jobs, primarily to Singapore and Hong Kong which offer the best opportunities.

“The majority of IT professionals at foreign-owned banks in Japan are foreigners, who are generally quite mobile, even in better times. But this year even the established expats – those who have settled in Japan and have families here – have been compelled to look elsewhere for jobs,” says Lepore.

Dunham adds: “Last year, we weren’t moving any expats out of Tokyo because they were too comfortable there. But now, along side job losses, expat packages in Tokyo are being trimmed, with housing allowances less common than in the past.”

Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and UBS are among the big banks to have shed IT staff in Tokyo recently, according to one recruiter who asked not to be named.

Lepore says hiring freezes are still taking place within some foreign firms. “They are also shaving low performers, as they would in any year, but we’re not seeing massive job cuts.”

As well as better employment opportunities, the lower cost of housing and potentially better lifestyle in Singapore is attracting Tokyo IT professionals to the Lion City, says Dunham. “The fact that English is the main language of banking in both Hong Kong and Singapore is also a huge draw card for people wanting to leave Japan.”

Most applications from Tokyo are for mid-level to senior roles – be they developer, infrastructure, or project-manager positions – with base pay between SG$150k and SG$250k, adds Dunham.

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