These are Greater Southeast Asia’s top emerging markets to find startup tech talent

Renald Loh
Renald Loh
March 21, 2022

2022 is a time of great uncertainty for many startups, with the backdrop of an economic downturn testing their mettle.

The bull run of 2021 has turned its tide, which has seen big companies like Grab, Shopee, and undergo massive layoff exercises as global economic wildfires reached our shores. Despite these headwinds, there are still reasons to be optimistic if you’re a founder.

Greater Southeast Asia is still an attractive market for building tech teams that are resilient, diverse, and high-performing. For this reason, founders in the region are increasingly adopting a geo-agnostic mindset and looking beyond borders to bring in the right tech talent. And they are finding it to be both cost-effective and advantageous to their business.

So how can your startup take advantage of this trend in hiring practices? In which countries do you begin to look?

We take a deep dive into four emerging countries in the region for startup tech talent; sieving out each market’s strengths, salary ranges, and industry specialties.

Related: Can companies find skilled tech talent during a talent crunch? Here’s how one Singaporean startup did it

Market 1: Indonesia

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world with 270 million residents, behind only the US and regional neighbors China and India.

Remarkably, more than half of its population are under 29.7 years old, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) calling the Southeast Asian giant one of the “fastest-growing emerging market economies”. This equates to a ton of investment opportunities, including a sizable group of young tech talent with a desire for work experience with international firms.

Alongside President Joko Widodo’s pledge in 2019 to develop Indonesian talent, plenty of international corporations like Huawei, Gojek, and Google have also jumped on board in recent years to provide resources for the nation’s future talent pool to hone their tech capabilities.

This massive investment in Indonesian talent bodes well for those looking to hire from the nation dubbed as the “digital archipelago”. The country ranks #13 in Asia for English proficiency, so startups that are keen to engage Indonesian talent should not have to worry about communication issues.

Related: The Southeast Asia Tech Talent Report 2021

Top 3 roles to hire from Indonesia

As investments continue to pour in and demand for tech talent grows, the next generation labor force of Indonesia will likely develop the capabilities needed to thrive in these roles:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Specialists: Indonesia is striving for quick and extensive AI integration in both the public and commercial sectors, with AI predicted to add $366 billion to the country’s GDP by 2030 if current trends persist. Their chances of becoming a regional AI powerhouse are promising, and startups can utilize its tech talent in order to get a foot in the Indonesian market.
  • Data Scientists: The e-commerce marketplace in Indonesia saw a sizable increase in active users following the pandemic, and user penetration is expected to hit 77% by 2025 with a projected market volume of US$90,192 million. Needless to say, the demand for data scientists will also grow, and so will firms’ desire to cultivate a future pool of data experts. One such example is the Cybertrend Data Academy, which collaborates with universities and corporations to provide certifiable quality education to data science enthusiasts.
  • Software Engineers: A 2020 LinkedIn report on Indonesia listed DevOps engineers – alongside AI specialists and data scientists – as one of the top 10 emerging jobs in the country. The report identifies ‘emerging jobs’ as roles that have seen a consistent, sustained increase in employment.

Salary ranges for Indonesian talent

Indonesia was ranked the sixth most financially attractive country for business services offshoring worldwide in 2021, with compensation costs, infrastructure costs and tax and regulatory costs taken into consideration.

In engineering roles, monthly base salaries for junior positions range anywhere from US$300 to US$1,700, with senior roles commanding around US$1,400 to US$2,800. The ranges for product management roles and data scientists are also similar.

Looking to build your first remote team in Indonesia? Glints can help match you with skilled tech talent quickly and affordably. Visit our website to find out more about our talent solutions.

Market 2: Taiwan

Taiwan has a total GDP of US$605 billion – the 7th largest in Asia. Although its economy is currently dominated by small-medium companies, it’s important to note that tech giants such as Google and Microsoft have bookmarked its potential and launched R&D centers there in hopes of capitalizing on its talent. Amazon also signed an MOU with the Taiwanese government to launch an innovation center back in 2018.

The presence of these big names is unsurprising. According to the 2021 IMD World Digital Competitiveness Rankings, which assesses the capacity and readiness of an economy to adopt and explore digital technologies as a key driver for economic transformation, Taiwan ranked 8th out of 64 countries, three places behind Singapore in 5th. The IMD World Talent Rankings also placed Taiwan 9th in terms of its talent’s skills and competencies in the same year.

Moreover, Taiwan’s students rank 7th in Asia for their English proficiency, with their education system placing an emphasis on systematic thinking and e-learning. They produce over 10,000 computer science and information systems graduates every year.

The quality of Taiwan’s graduates, its readiness to adopt digital technologies, and its potential to serve as a gateway into the larger Chinese market serve as crucial incentives to hire Taiwanese talent.

Related: Taiwan Tech Talent Report

Top 3 roles to hire from Taiwan

Taiwan’s strategy of cultivating specialized tech talent has paid dividends, with a large pool of qualified graduates in the fields of AI, biotech, and robotics.

  • Software Engineers: Taiwan is home to many skilled software engineers who are knowledgeable about newer stacks, and who possess higher-level engineering abilities in terms of overall structure, clean code lines, and overall engineering load. They’re also familiar with CI/CD and Scrum cycles.
  • AI / Robotics Engineers: Taiwan has also established quite a reputation for themselves as a leader in the field of robotics. In 2010, Taiwanese AI expert Aja Huang was responsible for developing the AI program that defeated a professional player in the Chinese game “Go”. AI and robotics continue to be firmly in the government’s strategy in their goal to become “Asia’s Silicon Valley”.
  • Biotech: Since 2016, Taiwan’s national development policy has made biomedical technology a primary focus. In 2019, the local biomedical sector rose by 8.7%, with total investment topping NT$55.1 billion. Students’ interests in the biomedical sector also appear to be sustained, with a recent survey showing that 42% of natural sciences students ranked pharmaceutical and biotechnology as their choice of employment.

Salary ranges for Taiwanese talent

The median annual salary of junior engineers from Taiwan is at least 36% higher compared to the overall median salary of the employed population (498,000 TWD or 17,550 USD), highlighting just how valuable they are to the market.

If you’re looking to hire tech talent from Taiwan today, junior engineers would typically command a monthly salary of anywhere from US$2,000 to US$3,300, while senior engineers’ remuneration is in the US$2,960 to US$5,000 range.

Looking to build your first remote team in Taiwan? Glints can help match you with skilled tech talent quickly and affordably. Visit our website to find out more about our talent solutions.

Market 3: Vietnam

Home to 97.3 million people, Vietnam is the eighth most populous country in Asia, and the fifth most attractive country for regional business services. Similar to Indonesia, they have a relatively young population with a median age of 32.5 years old.

According to the 2020 Vietnam IT Market Report, the country possesses over 400,000 IT engineers, with their universities churning out 50,000 IT graduates annually. Among them, it is estimated that 46.5% of them have more than three years of experience.

With supportive government policies that have boosted the IT sector, Vietnam’s strong GDP growth, growing disposable income, and young population mean the country has a thriving startup ecosystem.

Top 3 roles to hire from Vietnam

Startups who are looking to hire in IT or Web 3.0 should have Vietnam’s talent right at the top of their scouting list.

  • Blockchain: Although categorized as a low-middle-income country, Vietnam has a considerable degree of acceptance for cryptocurrency transactions, ranking #10 out of 154 nations in the Global Cryptocurrency Acceptance Index – comparable to industrialized countries like the US and China, and even higher than European powerhouses in France, Germany, Spain. With the Vietnam government expressing support for blockchain development, local startups like Triip and Tomochain have embraced blockchain as a core technology in their businesses.
  • Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence (AI): After a lengthy period of development from both major tech firms and startups, Vietnam’s AI sector has matured substantially. The Vietnamese government released a national policy for AI research, development, and application until 2030, with the goal of progressively transforming Vietnam into an ASEAN and global innovation and AI center.
  • Data Science: Data science is widely applied in Vietnam’s finance, real estate, healthcare and marketing industries. Businesses across industries continued to accelerate their digital transformation and adoption of new technologies, particularly in the areas of business intelligence (BI) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Salary ranges for Vietnamese talent

In Vietnam, junior data scientists seek a base salary of US$1,000 to US$2,000, with more senior roles commanding up to US$5,000. On the other hand, developers and engineers tend to draw anywhere from US$600 to US$3,500 depending on their level of experience.

Looking to build your first remote team in Vietnam? Glints can help match you with skilled tech talent quickly and affordably. Visit our website to find out more about our talent solutions.

Market 4: Philippines

The Philippines certainly has all the right ingredients to drive business with technology, which is why it has been pegged as a rising entrepreneurial hub in the region.

Home to a diverse pool of skilled and English-fluent talent, the Philippines has now emerged as a top-tier destination for many startups in Singapore, Japan, the U.S., and Germany.

The pandemic transformed the startup ecosystem and fueled the growth of tech adoption, tech talent density and high-impact investments. According to the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2022, the startup ecosystem is valued at over US$2 billion, with a 25% growth in e-commerce – the highest in the world.

Backed by strong government support, the startup ecosystem is instrumental to the country’s economic ambitions today. In fact, its GDP grew 5.6% in 2021 and surpassed pre-pandemic levels. With startups spurring the Philippines digital economy, it would contribute to an annual economic value of US$101.3 billion by 2030.

Related: Greater Southeast Asia’s Rising Tech Talent Pools

Top 3 roles to hire from the Philippines

The Philippines has one of the leading emerging Asian ecosystems in talent and experience; its tech talent is also ranked among the continent’s most affordable.

  • Cybersecurity: The International Trade Administration reports that 43% of Philippines private companies had increased investments into cybersecurity investments in 2020. Due to the continued adoption of cloud storage and solutions, software-defined area network security is gaining market popularity. The National Cybersecurity Plan 2022 of the Philippine Department of Information, Communications, and Technology (DICT) is also rolling out cybersecurity infrastructure from hardware to software, including a capability building program for all the national agencies and local government units.
  • E-commerce: The ‘Iron Triangle’ refers to three interlinked sectors dominated by Alibaba: e-commerce, logistics, and fintech (other major regional players include Shopee, Lazada, and Zalora). The country’s online consumers increased by 20% during the pandemic, making it the fastest-growing e-commerce market in Southeast Asia. In numbers, this translates to a 93% increase in GMV to a whopping $17 billion in 2021.
  • Fintech: Forecast to hit $44 billion by 2024, the financial technology market here reached a 48.7% penetration rate in 2021. Alibaba’s Project AsiaForward is spearheading its fintech growth by channeling US$1 billion funding and resources towards 1 million professionals in the digital talent pool, 100,000 developers, and 100,000 technology startups. Since its 2021 launch, this project has benefited over 600,000 individuals, 14,000 developers, and 850 startups.

Looking to build your first remote team in the Philippines? Glints can help match you with skilled tech talent quickly and affordably. Visit our website to find out more about our talent solutions.

Fast track your growth today with Glints

The global recession and tech talent crunch has left many startups scrambling to revise their talent sourcing strategies; but the potential of Greater Southeast Asia means that there are always windows of opportunity for founders to hire the right tech talent.

As Southeast Asia’s largest talent recruitment and management platform, Glints can help connect you with skilled talent from Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines – so you can focus on growing your business without the hassle.

This article is brought to you by Glints TalentHub. Leading companies are actively building their borderless teams in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and beyond. However, the prospect of going borderless can be daunting due to complex regulations and cultural ambiguities. With Glints TalentHub, you’ll have a dedicated team of in-market legal, HR, and talent experts by your side at every step of the way.

Glints TalentHub offers an end-to-end, tech-enabled talent solution that encompasses talent acquisition, EOR, and talent development. We empower businesses to leverage the strengths of regional talent efficiently to build high-performing, cost-efficient teams.

Schedule a no-obligation consultation with our experts to receive a tailored proposal today. 

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