Working in Asia

The Actuarial Pulse is an anonymous, web-based survey of Institute members, run on a monthly basis, giving members an opportunity to express their opinions on a mixture of serious and not-so-serious issues.

What would you like to know? If you have a question you would like to put to the membership, email the Chief Editor.


This month’s Pulse Survey focused on gauging your experiences and opinions on working in Asia. We left the definition of ‘Asia’ up to you, but for your reference this Wikipedia page lists the 49 Asian sovereign states and territories.

Q. Are you able to work in Asia as part of the company you for?

  • Over 50% of respondents are able to work in Asia as part of the company they work for, and over 90% of these responded ‘Yes’ work either in private industry or a consulting practice.
  • Those members in the ‘No’ bucket had a larger weighting towards being employed by the Government or are retired.
  • It would be interesting to see how this question would have been answered 10-20 years ago as many companies are encouraging their staff to be more mobile and creating opportunities for them to do so such as secondments and short-term projects.

Q. Have you ever worked in Asia (apart from Australia)?

Roughly a quarter of the respondents indicated that they had worked in Asia for part of their career. A further 30% indicated that they hadn’t worked in the region yet but would like to do so at some point and this was skewed towards the younger age brackets.

Q. In which country or countries did you work and for how long?

  • Over half of those that have worked in Asia have worked in either Hong Kong or Singapore with the time frames ranging from six months to 16 years! A few consultants and those working in private industry noted that although they may not physically be living in Asia, i.e. still being based in Australia or New Zealand, it hasn’t prevented them from engaging in transactions with parties based in Asia or taking on country responsibilities in this region.
  • Other countries mentioned in the responses included: Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • And a special regard to the retired gentleman who highlighted he had worked in Australia and New Zealand for 58 years – stellar effort!

Q. On a scale of 1-7 how would you rate your experience?


  • Approximately 80% of those who have worked in Asia rated their experience as being a four or better with the qualitative answers to the numbers answered in the questions below.
  • Upon examining closer at how these ratings stacked up against countries respondents have worked in – the countries mentioned in the higher ratings far outnumbered when and if mentioned in a lower rating, implying it could be circumstance specific or should maybe be drilled further in another pulse?

Q. What were the best/worst aspects of working in Asia for you?

  • Best (in order of frequency)
    • Food, travel, different and interesting projects, low tax regimes, exposure to different markets, and people (one respondent mentioned he met his wife overseas!)
  • Worst
    • Being away from home/family, long hours, multiple languages, and smog

Q. What attracts you to working in Asia? Are there any particular countries?

The most common themes were centred on:

  • experiencing a different culture;
  • expanding one’s horizons – both personal and professional;
  • working in countries experiencing high growth and have developing markets; and
  • working in a country where one’s ancestors are from.

The most popular countries cited here were Hong Kong and Singapore…with several additional comments about their tax regimes.

Q. How likely do you think it is that you will work in Asia at some time in your career and why?


Those that did answer this question were clearly polarised in their responses. On one end there were those who indicated that they were ‘likely’ to ‘highly likely’ to work in Asia at some point in their career. Their reasons included:

  • working for a global organisation;
  • business hubs increasingly being based in the region; and
  • career goals.

One respondent also stated their reason as “…because I want to and I will make it happen”.

On the other end of the scale were those in the ‘unlikely’ to ‘highly unlikely’ camp and this was primarily as a result of family commitments.

In the minds of those unlikely to work in Asia at any point in their career deterrents include:

  • “too attached to home”;
  • climate;
  • language barriers;
  • long hours and poorer work-life balance;
  • family (and young children); or
  • pollution.

Q. Do you speak any Asian languages?

Language Percentage (%)
Mandarin 16.3
Cantonese 14.9
Japanese 4.2
Hindi 1.9
Korean 1.9
Indonesian 1.4
Tamil 1.4
Gujarati 0.9
Malay 0.9
Malayalam 0.9
Hebrew 0.5
Punjabi 0.5
Nepali 0.5
Vietnamese 0.5

The following table shows the spectrum of languages the survey respondents can converse in. Approximately half of those that can speak another language indicated they can actually speak two or three – impressive! And a very special mention to one member who can speak five Indian languages! – Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Marathi and Urdu.

A cross analysis was conducted looking at languages spoken and countries that would be most attractive to work in. However the data wasn’t statistically significant enough to show a link between languages spoken and wanting to work in the respective country where that language is spoken. Perhaps those who do want to work in Asia will do so regardless of the language because of the reasons mentioned above as to what attracts them overall.



As we commonly read about Asia becoming the next power region and how it will become be an increasingly important part of how we do business here in Australia (and New Zealand) quite a few respondents have already experienced the region in some part of their career with others also interested to venture and work in the future.

Perhaps in 10 years time Asia will be the next ‘London’ for those who want to go overseas for a few years as a ‘gap year’-like experience in their careers. We can also think more deeply about the Collaborative Workspaces Pulse by Candice Ming in May. With the evolving nature of workspaces you may not even have to leave your home, let alone the country.

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