Asia Pacific Employees Deeply Concerned about Financial Security Despite Predicted Economic Growth

Employees in Asia Pacific are deeply concerned about their financial security although various markets in the region are predicted by organizations such as IMF to have better economic growth in 2018 and 2019 than the previous two years.

A fifth of employees in the region now believe their financial concerns are negatively impacting their lives, according to Willis Towers Watson’s 2017/2018 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey that measured attitudes of more than 30,000 private sector employees in 22 countries — including 9,462 responses from Asia Pacific including Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Philippines, and Singapore.

More than two in five (42%) worry about their future financial state, while a similar percentage (41%) said their financial security has become a more important issue for them in the last two to three years, said the risk management and insurance brokerage and advisory firm.

“The negative impacts are not only on the personal lives of employees - both physically and mentally - but also on their behaviour at work, particularly their productivity and engagement,”  said Jeff Howatt, Head of Retirement, Asia at Willis Towers Watson.

This is especially true among “struggling” employees (13%), identified in the research as those worried about their short- and long-term finances, Howatt pointed out.

Half of these struggling employees (50%) said money concerns were keeping them from doing their best at work, while igher levels of absenteeism were found among this group, he said.

Additionally, almost three in four (72%) struggling employees reported above average or high stress levels, while more than two in five (42%) described their health as poor, according to the report.

Only around one in four (27%) of these employees were fully engaged at work compared with nearly half of employees (48%) without any worries who were fully engaged, the report says.

Employers need to take an active role to help employees

While 58% of employers think they should take an active role in encouraging their employees to manage their personal finances better, according to the firm’s 2017/2018 Asia Pacific Benefit Trends survey, Howatt said the challenge is how to provide the right sort of support—neither too superficial nor intrusive.

Howatt recommends employers to take the following steps to help their employees.

  • As a starting point, employers should identify and focus on the workforce segments struggling financially
  • Employers should communicate with their employees to try to understand their future outlook and barriers. In this process, it is important for employers to note how financial vulnerabilities differ across the workforce – a young millennial still trying to pay off student debt has very different needs compared with a baby boomer who is trying to save for retirement.
  • With understanding generally comes a solution. It would also be helpful for employers to review the suitability of their HR and retirement arrangements for different workforce segments to lessen the long-term financial burdens of the employees.