India to see a 10% salary increase in 2020: Willis Towers Watson Survey

Salaries in India are projected to rise 10% in 2020, marginally higher than the actual increase (9.9%) in 2019, according to the latest Q3 2019 Salary Budget Planning Report released by Willis Towers Watson, the leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. The report looks at a range of job grades across various industry sectors and is designed to provide companies with guidance for their annual salary forecasting for the year ahead.

 Year  Projected salary increase Actual salary increase
2020 10.0%
 2019  10.0% 9.9%
 2018  10.0%  10.0%
 2017  10.0%  10.0%
 2016  10.0%  10.0%
 2015  10.0%  10.4%

While salary increases in India are stabilising around the 10% mark, they remain the highest in the Asia Pacific region. Indonesia is projected at 8%, China at 6.5%, Philippines at 6%, Hong Kong and Singapore both at 4%.

Sharing his perspective on the findings, Rajul Mathur, Consulting Leader – Talent & Rewards, Willis Towers Watson India said, “Though salary increases in India still continue to be among the highest in the region, companies are taking a cautious approach and do not intend to make any significant changes from previous years. Companies are beginning to make selective skill-based compensation adjustments to cater to requirements around automation and digitisation. Going forward, organisations should continue to re-examine the alignment between their business and talent strategies, as well as how to remunerate and reward different segments of the workforce considering their core contribution to business success.”

Economic outlook and hiring trends 

Of the surveyed companies, 28% have projected a positive business revenue outlook for the next 12 months, down from 37% in 2018. Whereas, 61% expect no big change as compared to 57% last year; and, 11% have a downward revenue projection compared to 5% in 2018.

With the cautious business outlook, recruitment efforts are expected to slow down. The survey shows that only 22% of the organisations in India plan to add new headcount compared to 29% last year. Organisations planning to maintain their current headcount increased from 63% in 2018 to 70% in 2019; while, 7% plan to reduce headcount as compared to 8% last year.

Hiring has been stable across sectors like High Tech, Shared Service Outsourcing, Pharmaceuticals, Energy, Retail and Chemicals, while Captives continue to ramp up and expand with newer lines being introduced or insourced into the India operations. However, hiring has slowed down markedly for Automobile, Auto Ancillary and Engineering.

Sectoral trends 

While most sectors like General Industry, Chemical, High Tech and Pharmaceuticals can expect salary increases around average mark of 10%, Energy, Financial Services and Consumer Products sectors stand out for the highest year on year growth. The Energy sector is expected to see a jump from 8.5% in 2019 to 9.3% in 2020, the Financial Services is projected at 9.7% in 2020 from 9% last year and the Consumer Products sectors is expected to see an increase from 9.5% in 2019 to 9.9% in 2020. 

Salary increase by management and performance level 

Median salary increase at the Executive level for 2020 is projected at 10.1%, a noteworthy increase from 9.6% in the previous year. For Middle Management, Professional and Support Staff, an increase from 10.1 % in 2019 to 10.4% in 2020 is projected. The employee group of Production Manual Labour is also projected to receive a higher salary increase of 10.3% as compared to 10% last year.

Highlighting a continued shift towards variable pay, especially at senior management levels, the survey found that actual variable pay at executive level increased from 20.7% in 2018, to 30.7% in 2019.

Arvind Usretay, Director, Rewards, Willis Towers Watson India said, “Attracting and retaining the right talent at leadership positions is commanding higher pay increases as the leadership pool continues to be limited. The increase is mostly in terms of variable pay as there is greater focus on pay for performance. That said, companies are also working towards more robust succession planning programmes in order to develop a sustainable leadership pipeline.”

On salary increases by performance levels, the survey found that on an average, 25% of the salary increase budget is being allocated to top performers, which represents 11.5% of employees in India. This implies that for each INR 1 allocated to an average or below-average performer, INR 2.16 is allocated to a top performer compared to about INR 1.3 last year.

“No longer are employers only looking at compensation alone as a key attraction or retention driver. While compensation continues to be an important element, we are seeing a quiet re-emergence of ‘employee benefits’ underway. If the last decade was about compensation being the key differentiator, the next could well be about ‘purpose led benefits’. With the employee now seen as a consumer, benefits will expectedly become more segmented, flexible and targeted,” Arvind added.

Premium Skills in demand

In the Technology, Pharmaceutical and FMCG sectors, Key Account Management roles are in demand, while Data Science and Machine Learning specialisation is being favoured in Engineering. There is generally a high demand for Robotics and Automation Engineers and Project Managers with AGILE / SCRUM certification.

Further, the report identifies Blockchain, AI and Machine Learning, Cybersecurity and Dev Ops as the most in demand technology skills in the next 12 months where employers are willing to pay a premium to acquire talent.

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