The demand for artificial intelligence (AI) roles is expected to increase in 2024, with top three roles being sought after are artificial intelligence (AI) engineer, AI mentor or trainer, data scientist and analyst, Southeast Asia talent platform Glints said in a report on Tuesday.

According to the report titled, “What to Expect for 2024: SEA Talent Trends and Outlook,”, demand for AI engineers increased by 15 percent from the first half 2023 compared to the first half of 2022.

Many of these roles are in the retail and information technology (IT) services space likely as they focus on AI technologies to support technological advancements, customer experience and personalization and automation and efficiency in these sectors.

“We believe that while certain jobs will be replaced by machines and AI, more roles and industry sectors will be enhanced and augmented by tech developments in the future,” Glints said.

The report also showed revenue-generating roles, including marketing and sales will continue to take center stage in 2024.

According to the report, top in-demand tech roles across Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam is software engineer.

Other top tech roles still sought after across the region include graphic and brand designers, IT specialist and business analysts roles.

“We expect employers to continue prioritizing these roles in 2024,

“Despite the current market downturn in the tech industry, both tech and non-tech roles continue to be in demand by startups and small and medium sized enterprises, with salaries growing and picking up momentum from the previous year,” said Glints.

Meanwhile, IT and software development, which are the top industries hiring in 2023, are expected to be the top industries hiring in Southeast Asia in 2024.

According to the report, cybersecurity, cloud computing, digital transformation, positions IT services and consulting, and software engineering are key industries hiring in 2023.

The report also showed small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are expected to prioritize digitalization and AI in 2024 with 44 percent of SMEs surveyed prioritizing digitalization and 26 percent prioritizing AI.

“We expect an increase in skilled tech talent to enable digital transformation of SMEs in the region,” Glints said.

The report also showed full-stack developer is the number one role for cross-border hiring.

“We’re seeing increased appetite for hiring and building teams in neighboring countries. For example, we are seeing more Hong Kong employers hiring full-stack developers in Taiwan and Malaysia and Singapore employers hiring talent in Indonesia and Vietnam,” said Glints.

The report also noted the rise of borderless teams as over 73 percent of Southeast Asian startups are hiring outside their home markets for skilled talent and cost efficiencies.

According to Glints, the rise of borderless team is becoming more apparent in 2023, and will be even more so in 2024.

As Southeast Asia companies look to go regional and save costs, it said employers are being more flexible and hiring talent outside of their headquarters.

For example, while the core management team may sit in Singapore, they may hire a local marketing team in Indonesia, and back office team in Malaysia.

“At the same time, we are seeing more employers create hubs with at least three to five employees in each of their key markets that play to the local market strengths whether is a local marketing team in Indonesia for local campaigns or an engineering team in Vietnam,” Glints added.

The report also showed that China and Hong Kong tend to hire talent from Southeast Asia.

The report found that for China companies, Southeast Asia is a market for expansion or a region to support expansion globally.

Glints saw a 4 times increase in open roles from China-based employers for Southeast Asia talent in the first half of 2023 from the first half of 2022.

For China companies, it found tech and product capabilities are usually not an issue as they have a proven model from China.

However, it said the biggest challenge is localization, so a key focus is to find the right business development hire first to set up the local team.

Additionally, with more than 200,000 expats and Hongkongers leaving the city during the pandemic, Glints noted there is talent scarcity in Hong Kong.

For startups in Hong Kong, it said they are looking at hiring talent remotely in Southeast Asia to save costs with median salaries for tech roles in Hong Kong 2.5 times higher than Southeast Asia.

The report also showed there will be a major shift back to return to office or fully in-office work in 2024 as 88 percent of startup employers in Southeast Asia will expect to be hybrid or fully-in office work.

“In Asia, we have seen that there are generally more employees returning to the office compared to its American counterparts,” said Glints.

It also noted that in Vietnam, 79 percent of employers prefer to have employees work from the office.

Meanwhile, 54 percent of respondents in Singapore prefer to have a hybrid work environment.

“More westernized economies are less ready to push for work from office in a post-pandemic world, which is why we see Singapore, relative to the rest of their neighbors, show the strongest resistance to work from the office,” said Glints.

However, Glints expects that there will be a broader shift to work from an office or a hybrid model as compared to a fully remote working environment, particularly as the labor environment tips towards an employer versus employee market.

Glints & MHV report finds increased demand for revenue-generating roles for SEA startups in 2023