5 Best Asian Countries to Work in as a Contractor

As Covid-19, technology and rapid globalisation have driven unprecedented changes to personal and professional life, millions across the globe are looking to further their careers and enhance their work/life balance with a new role in the year ahead. As a world-leading hub for technological innovation, an increasingly competitive player across industries and markets, and with greater investments into education, business and economy, Asia is continually enhancing its status as a desirable location for short-term employment.

Generate’s payroll and contractor management specialists outline the Asian countries that can provide the most enjoyable, profitable and career-beneficial opportunities for contract specialists in 2021 and beyond.

5 Best Asian Countries to Work in as a Contractor

1. China

The Chinese labour market is projected to shrink slightly in the coming decade due to an ageing population and longstanding one-child policy, further driving up demand for skilled contractors in the IT and tech sectors. The nation is a hub for IT talent and, in terms of consumer spending and business investment, the Chinese IT market is the fourth-largest around the globe. Home to industry giants such as Huawei and Alibaba, the most in-demand skills in China include data scientists, e-commerce managers, senior engineers in research and development and digital finance experts.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, wages in the computer science and software industry grew by 9% – the highest pay rises amongst all China’s industries – setting the stage for profitable assignments for many skilled IT contractors. Front-end engineering is one of the country’s most desired skill sets, and developers proficient in Java and Python are paid significantly higher than peers. The cost of living is immensely affordable for UK, European and American expats, and particularly when it comes to food, transport and utilities.

Experiencing employment in China also opens the door to contracting across other neighbouring countries. At 1.2billion speakers (one sixth of the world) the Chinese national language of Mandarin is the most spoken language throughout the world. Business fluency in Mandarin, in addition to cultural and social knowledge garnered on the job, will provide a competitive advantage for any freelancers or sole traders interested in exploring other Mandarin-speaking countries such as Taiwan and Singapore.

2. India

India’s vast history and rich culture are reasons enough to spend a few months in the country. The birthplace of half of the world’s major religions, residents speak 121 languages containing 19,500 dialects, confirming India’s status as one of the planet’s most diverse nations as well as one of the oldest in existence. Awe-inspiring temples, seasonal and religious festivals, celebratory traditions and legendary cuisine will provide a living and working experience like no other on Earth.

Individuals working in India for six months or less (fewer than 182 days to be precise) will not be classed as tax residents and will therefore be liable for no income tax during this period. The cost of living is considerably cheaper than many other countries, with food and transport in particular costing much less than in the UK and Europe. 

Capital city Mumbai was recently voted the most lucrative overseas contracting city. Britons contracting in Mumbai enjoy the highest take-home pay in the world after factoring in taxes, social security and living costs.

3. UAE

The United Arab Emirates, and in particular Dubai, is fast becoming a tech hub for the Middle East. Already a global centre for Tourism, Aviation, Retail and global business and trade in general, the UAE fared comparatively well during the Covid-19 pandemic (with one of the planet’s highest vaccination rates) and  is predicted to bounce back much faster than scores of other economies around the world.

As the Emirati Governments do not require residents or workers to pay any income tax, the nation presents a particularly appealing option for temporary contracting specialists to considerable bump up their savings over a short period of time before returning home. The UAE offers very high rates of pay, particularly the ‘City of God’ as Dubai is often known, and the Emirates consistently rank highly on global indexes measuring quality of life. UK expats will be in great company: almost 80% of the UAE is represented by foreign nationals, with English one of the most commonly spoken languages after Arabic.

4. Singapore

Contracting is becoming increasingly popular for businesses based in Singapore, with IT professionals in particularly high demand. 53% of Singaporean CIOs frequently hire experienced interim or temporary IT specialists to implement digital transformation programmes, and EY recently reported that half of all Singaporean employers have increased their use of contract workers over the last five years. With KPMG ranking Singapore as the globe’s leading tech innovation hub outside of San Francisco – well ahead of London, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, New York and Shanghai – the country will rapidly invest in hiring overseas skills to secure international tech dominance in the near future.

As up to one in three of the working age population currently engage in some form of self-employed work, and with 41% of the entire population being expats, contractors working in Singapore will settle in quickly and have plenty of company.

5. Malaysia

The World Bank predicts that the Malaysian economy will enjoy a dramatic resurgence following the Covid-19 pandemic. The Vision 2020 plan accelerated the country’s shift to high-tech industries, which has in turn rapidly increased demand for contractors specialising in IT, energy and supply chain.

The country’s geographic location presents a wide range of opportunities to explore South East Asia. Near-neighbouring nations with rich cultures and landscapes include Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines, with Australia just a short flight away. Malaysia’s own vistas offer rainforests, beaches and tropical islands in which to relax after a hard day’s work, with world-famous Malaysian cuisine sure to satisfy any appetite.

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