Birches Group monitors labor markets that are making headlines worldwide and wants to share news and updates on the current conditions in these markets.

The White House released in August 2022 the US strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Its renewed policy supports four main objectives, including advancing pandemic recovery and economic opportunity.

A priority and opportunity

SSA is of growing importance on the world stage. Comprising 49 countries, the region is a geopolitical priority and an emerging economic opportunity. SSA countries hold roughly 25% of United Nations General Assembly seats. Moreover, the region is integrating into the world’s largest free trade area.

The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration describes SSA as presenting real opportunity, with indicators such as:

  • A combined market population of over 1.2 billion people (that is expected to double by 2050),
  • A gross domestic product of more than US$1.5 trillion, and
  • Home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

The World Bank reports that economic activity in the area is set to expand by 3.6% in 2022, 3.9% in 2023, and 4.2% in 2024. Additionally, its young population makes SSA an attractive investment destination. Massive demographic shifts in this part of the world provide tremendous opportunities to create jobs, boost incomes, and reduce poverty, especially in a global environment of slowing growth.

China and its growing influence in the region

The world is well aware of Africa’s importance, encouraging countries to expand their political, economic, and security engagement with African states. In the past 20 years, new actors, such as China, have been shifting dynamics across SSA. And Chinese influence in the region is real and significant.

In 2001, China received less than 3% of the region’s exports, compared to nearly 19% for the US. In 2009, China overtook the US as SSA’s largest trading partner. Almost 20 years later, China has emerged as the region’s single greatest export partner, holding an 11% share of exports in 2019, while the US share dropped to 5%. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has invested in SSA through transportation, power, water supply, and other infrastructure projects. China has also provided loans, investments, and aid.

The US reframes its Sub-Saharan Africa partnership

The US is responding to growing foreign activity and influence in SSA and is engaging a region undergoing significant transformation. “It would be a strategic mistake for the US to abandon its engagement with SSA altogether—especially as US adversaries and competitors are relentlessly increasing their investment in the region…” said Daniel Runde, Director of the Project on Prosperity and Development, and Sundar Ramanujam, Research Associate of the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).

Biden’s policy differs from those of previous administrations because it focuses on overhauling its relationship with SSA from donor-recipient to genuine partnership. “Biden’s team extols Africa’s strengths and is proposing US-Africa partnerships on a range of issues,” said Mark Bellamy, Senior Advisor of the Africa Program at CSIS.

Further, Devex reports that the strategy has generally been well-received and is seen as sending a strong message about US engagement in the region. “It’s a strategy that reflects the region’s complexity—its diversity, its power, and its influence—and one that focuses on what we will do with African nations and peoples, not for African nations and peoples,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as he announced the strategy.

It’s also an effort to make regional engagement authentic and not just a battleground to compete with China and Russia. “Too often, African nations have been treated as instruments of other nations’ progress rather than the authors of their own,” added Blinken in his announcement.

Why this matters to employers

With the intent of the US to reestablish ties and reinvest in SSA, employers with a presence in the region can anticipate a significant shift in the labor market in years to come. Monitoring the labor market as early as possible is critical for your organization to seize economic opportunities and remain competitive. Keeping an eye on market shifts enables your organization to plan and make informed decisions about hiring, pay management, employee benefits, and more.

How we can help

We at Birches Group survey leading employers in over 150 countries with a consistent methodology designed for dynamic, emerging markets across SSA. We survey labor markets of varying sizes, focusing on employers that set trends. Get updated and relevant data on every country in SSA. Speak with our consultants today to understand our data and how you can use it for your organization.

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The labor market is constantly changing and evolving. It changes to reflect demands and pressures from different sectors, industries, and locations. New jobs emerge, old ones disappear, and wages fluctuate—sometimes due to external forces and local or regional economic factors. Organizations must stay on top of trends and monitor the labor market to remain competitive. Those that don’t keep up risk being left behind and failing to meet the needs of their people.  

One way for organizations to stay ahead is to monitor the labor market. Doing so helps human resources (HR) teams understand how their organization is affected by market movement. Reviewing and interpreting labor market data allows HR teams to address critical questions such as: 

  • How can we determine how much the market pays for similar roles? 
  • How can we competitively position ourselves against our target peers? 
  • How can we become an employer of choice in the local labor market? 

Keeping an eye on the labor market enables organizations to make informed decisions about hiring, pay management, employee benefits, retention strategies, and more.  

This blog post will explore why organizations should track the labor market and how to do so effectively. When the organization knows what is coming, it can plan and ensure it is well-positioned when the opportunity to grow strikes. 

Establishing market composition and position 

Using labor market data can help organizations clearly and consistently establish their competitive strategy, notably their: 

  • Target composition, or which group of employers are similar and more relevant to the organization. Consider organizations from the same sector, employers you lose your staff to, and organizations you often hire staff from.  
  • Target position, or how competitive an organization wants to be. Identify the ideal percentile (e.g., 50th, 75th) of the labor market the organization wishes to attract.  

Determining its target composition and position enables an organization to understand where it stands against key employers in the market. It also guides the organization on what it needs to do to lag, match, or stay ahead of relevant comparators. Organizations must consider their compensation policies and budget to establish their target composition and position. 

Setting benefits 

Labor market data also gives up-to-date insights into benefits widely provided in each country. In addition to salaries, benefits come in the form of cash (allowances and bonuses), in-kind benefits (company bus, gift baskets, company products, etc.), and non-salary benefits (retirement plans, healthcare coverage, family benefits, and leave provisions). 

As the organization reviews compensation and benefits surveys, it can easily identify mandatory, cultural, and market practice benefits, as well as benefits that address local hardships. And while salaries often attract key talent to an organization, benefits make up a significant part of the compensation package in developing markets. By providing the proper compensation and benefits, the organization can remain competitive and retain talent.  

Identifying HR gaps and making the necessary adjustments 

Identifying the gaps in HR practices is another way organizations can benefit from monitoring labor market information. Some of the few questions that organizations will want to address are: 

  • Do our hiring rates remain competitive? 
  • Are we able to retain the talent we need? 
  • Are our employee benefits competitive in the market? 

When the organization encounters talent management issues—such as challenges in attracting the right talent or holding on to staff—it may be time to make adjustments to the compensation package. 

If the organization is looking for data scientists—but hasn’t found suitable candidates—it may be time to rethink the starting salaries to ensure they are comparable to other organizations hiring for a similar job. Or perhaps the organization starts to lose staff after some time. It may need to reassess policies on pay movement, benefits packages, or career advancement to entice staff to stay longer.  

Understanding the impact of the data

Organizations need to go beyond the labor market data. They must understand how changing HR policies and practices in reaction to emerging trends, shifts, and volatility affects staff. So, the question that needs to be addressed is: Do the organization’s policies and initiatives reflect labor market changes and demands? 

A recent example would be the shift from working at a traditional office to working remotely or in a hybrid format. After years of being accustomed to working from home (in response to the COVID-19 pandemic), employees now expect flexible work arrangements—so much that they are willing to leave the organization if it does not offer the option. 

Another example is managing dispersed teams. With many employees now preferring to relocate to places that are sometimes far from the office, how will adjustments to compensation and benefits affect staff based in different areas? Should organizations still base salaries on city rates or adjust them based on where the staff chooses to relocate?

Thus, organizations need to use labor market data and its implications to help inform their policies. Other key questions that organizations need to answer when looking at labor market data include: 

  • Is our compensation program reaching the talent we need? 
  • How can we maintain our relevance in the labor market? 
  • Are there opportunities for improvement? 
  • Will changing our policies and practices help or hurt us? 
  • What are the implications of these changes on staff? 

Managing compensation even through uncertainty 

Now more than ever, organizations need to closely monitor the market. With inflation rising in countries across the globe, employees need to know that their employer has a plan to help them get through turbulent times.  

Organizations can best manage economic turmoil by monitoring the labor market coupled with a special measures policy. When volatility happens, chances are employees are going to ask HR how the organization will help their families manage their day-to-day expenses. When market conditions warrant adjustments to compensation, this is easily defensible when you have the market data to support it.   

When unpredictable events such as economic volatility, natural calamities, armed conflict, and periods of unrest affect the regular dynamics of the labor market, organizations must keep participating and monitoring labor market movement. By doing so, the organization can determine proper triggers, based on data, that would justify changes to compensation and benefits, as well as the frequency to which adjustments are made.  

Bottom line: Know where you stand 

The labor market continues to shift. It may be difficult for organizations to keep up as the market relies on changes from other sectors of the economy and events from around the world. As such, it is critical to keep track of the ever-changing landscape. This ensures that organizations adapt and adjust policies and measures to meet new demands, positioning themselves for success.  

To do this, organizations need up-to-date data about the labor market to know what conditions are like in their area. Tracking the labor market through salary surveys can offer helpful insight into emerging trends that could impact the organization. Monitoring will help employers understand current conditions to make informed decisions about jobs, the market, and skills and performance. In the end, keeping one’s eyes on the labor market helps organizations stay competitive.  

Does your organization need labor market data, especially on developing markets? We at Birches Group offer the most comprehensive salary survey coverage, with data on over 150 countries. We survey markets of varying sizes and focus on leading employers that set trends. Get in touch with our consultants to get started. 


Carla is a part-time copywriter in our marketing team in Manila. Before shifting to freelance writing in 2020, she worked as a marketing and communications specialist at the offices of EY and Grant Thornton. She has written about HR and career development for Kalibrr. 

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Birches Group monitors labor markets that are making headlines worldwide, and wants to share news and updates on the current conditions in these markets. 

Defaulting on debt

In November 2020, Zambia became the first African nation to default on its Eurobonds during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the country’s debt distress into headlines around the world. The debt crisis resulted from “years of economic mismanagement,” the International Monetary Fund said. Drought in 2019 and COVID-19 in 2020 worsened Zambia’s economic challenges.  

A precarious macroeconomic situation 

But the Zambian economy was witnessing “a weak macroeconomic condition” even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said. Growth was sharply declining. Zambia was facing severe challenges such as high inflation, unsustainable debt levels, low international reserves, and tight liquidity conditions, according to the economic outlook of the African Development Bank (AfDB). 

Over the past five years, Zambia’s economic growth slightly accelerated in 2017 and 2018, slowed in 2019, declined to a negative in 2020, and resumed in 2021, as reported by the 2022 Index of Economic Freedom. In 2018, Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated at US$ 26.31 billion, with an annual growth rate of 4 percent. But an “expansionary fiscal policy mainly financed by external and local borrowing” caused Zambia’s debt to hit 91.6% of its GDP in 2019 and 104% in 2020.  

Inflation nearly doubled, and the Zambian kwacha quickly depreciated by 64%. When COVID-19 hit Zambia being in this situation, the country’s precarious macroeconomic position took a turn for the worse. The Zambian economy fell into a deep recession, the AfDB said. More inflation, currency depreciation, and a significant debt burden forced Zambia to default on its debt obligation and seek more relief from lenders. 

A new dawn for Zambia 

In August 2021, Zambia’s trajectory significantly shifted with the election of a new government led by longtime opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema. As Zambia’s seventh president, Hichilema inherited a nation with unsustainable debt larger than previously known and had to deal with the impact of its debt default.  

According to Deloitte, debt restructuring, talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and a more stable exchange rate, among other measures, would be “fundamental to Zambia achieving macroeconomic stability.” Hichilema outlined an ambitious agenda to address structural weaknesses through macroeconomic reforms guided by an IMF program. 

Engaging the IMF 

“Zambia is in debt distress and needs a deep and comprehensive debt treatment to place public debt on a sustainable path,” the IMF said. The government began to actively seek a comprehensive debt restructuring. Specifically, it initiated a creditor engagement strategy to secure immediate debt service relief and better terms, the AfDB said. 

On December 6, 2021, the government of Zambia announced it had reached a staff-level agreement on a US$1.4-billion extended credit facility with the IMF from 2022 to 2025. On September 6, 2022, the IMF’s Executive Board approved a 38-month credit facility amounting to US$1.3 billion to “restore economic stability and foster higher, more resilient, and more inclusive growth.” 

These recent events marked a significant milestone and set the path for negotiations with Zambia’s lenders to restructure the country’s external debt.  

Focusing on economic recovery 

The country’s economic outlook has markedly improved, given renewed optimism and increased investor confidence post-elections. Additionally, the newly elected government has made several important policy announcements, including an enhanced focus on rebuilding the economy and creating an enabling business environment to foster growth. 

Zambia’s growth in the coming years is to be likely driven by “a clear path to debt sustainability, leveraging the country’s mining potential, increased private sector participation, focus on job creation, and good governance,” said Deloitte & Touche (Zambia) Managing Partner Humphrey Mulenga in Doing Business in Zambia. Economic activity will gradually pick up, with the World Bank estimating growth at an average of 3.8% from 2022 to 2025. While the market sentiment has markedly improved, the Zambian economy remains fragile, the IMF said in a September 2022 report. 

How we can help 

We at Birches Group survey leaders in over 150 countries with a consistent methodology designed for dynamic, emerging markets such as Zambia. We survey labor markets of varying sizes, focusing on employers that set market trends. Our survey data empowers organizations to monitor and benchmark positions in local markets and create salary structures tailored to each country’s requirements while conforming to global standards. 

Speak with our consultants today to access up-to-date labor market data and understand how to use it for your organization. 

References:


Establishing fairness in pay involves careful and thoughtful decision-making that is not as straightforward as simply assigning the same salary to all employees in the same position. Staff development is never uniform. Employees develop at different paces, with some gaining skills and experience around specific areas of the job faster than others. To ensure fairness and equity through pay, employers need to carefully assess the unique skills and knowledge of each employee, while providing clarity in approach.

Clarity in Pay Through Transparency

Historically, disclosing one’s salary has always been considered private and taboo. Salaries have always been an emotional and sensitive subject, as it is typically associated with one’s value to the company.  According to this LinkedIn article, one of the reasons for keeping wages and salary ranges private is that companies want to keep the status quo. They are afraid to upset employees which can inevitably happen when pay gaps in the organization are exposed. But the reality is that every organization will have pay gaps, and a major step in eliminating those gaps is through transparency.

In recent years, both lawmakers and leading companies have been addressing gender and race-related pay gaps through laws and compensation policies. In 2006, Denmark introduced legislation that required companies to disclose wage statistics between men and women with the same job if the company has more than 10 men and women working in the same position. In this study done by Professor Morten Bennedsen from the Economic Institute at the University of Copenhagen and INSEAD Business School in France, the law appears to have decreased the pay gap between men and women by 13%. In Canada, public sector employers are required to disclose salaries and benefits of employees that are paid $100,000 or more in a year which led to a 30% drop in the gender pay gap according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research .

In Birches Group, we too, believe and practice transparency in pay which is demonstrated through a couple of ways. First, the company’s salary scale is published to all staff. All employees are allowed to see the salary ranges not only for their grade level, but also others. Simply making our salary scale public allows everyone in the organization to see predictable movement within each grade level, the difference between one grade level to the next, and possible career progression for each role.

Second, our compensation policies on setting pay, variable pay movement, and milestones to determine promotion readiness are made clear as part of the company’s onboarding process and refresher trainings are regularly provided to all staff. When organizations make it clear how employees are paid and how they can chart their careers, staff feel more empowered to take equal ownership of the level and pace of their development, positively contributing to employee retention, while holding the organization accountable to provide clarity to their employees on how they are assessed and recognized.

Fairness and Equity in Pay by Measuring Staff’s Skills & Knowledge

Managing pay increases has always been a complicated process. People want to be paid according on their level of experience, but traditional approaches have never allowed managers to clearly measure experience apart from time (through time-based “steps” in the salary scale) or performance (through merit pay).

Using time-based steps or increments was never effective in recognizing one’s experience. As long as an employee completes another year with their employer, they get one or two steps in their pay regardless of whether they do their job or not. Merit pay, on the other hand, allows for variable pay movement based on the employee’s performance ratings from the preceding year. While this approach was designed to award pay increases to employees with good outputs and results, using performance ratings is not reliable because it doesn’t guarantee the same results the following year. When performance is used to drive pay increases, the organization is essentially rewarding an employee’s one-time achievement with a salary increase forever.

To truly establish equity in the workplace, we at Birches Group, believe pay movement should be based on the level of skills and knowledge the employee brings to the company. Over time, as an employee acquires and demonstrates new levels of skills and knowledge, their capacity to perform their job becomes better, making it a more effective and objective way to drive pay increases.

A big challenge to employers has always been how to measure one’s experience – “How do I know, what you know?” Birches Group has come up with a framework and an assessment tool that can explicitly measure your employees’ skills and knowledge. Using our Community™ Jobs approach as the underlying foundation, Community™ Skills consists of a progression of five skills stages across six indicators which is used to measure the continuous growth of an employee within their job.

Through Community™ Skills, pay management policies can be developed and aligned to use skills and knowledge growth to drive variable pay movement. Community™ Skills can also be used to demonstrate equity and fairness through deliberate developmental assignments for staff, as well as providing an objective criterion for succession planning and promotion decisions.

Pay equity and transparency in the workplace doesn’t happen overnight. Companies must take active steps to ensure clarity around pay management policies, as well as standards on how employees are assessed and developed. Birches Group has extensive experience developing compensation policies for organizations across different sectors and markets. Our Community™ Skills tool can help organizations assess the capacities in their workforce, facilitate pay movement, as well as guide learning and development assignments. Contact us to learn how we can improve your talent management programs today.


Kai works in our Marketing Team in Manila. She creates online content around Community™ concepts and assists in developing promotional campaigns answering why Community™ should be each organization’s preferred solution, focusing on its simplicity and integrated approach. She has had years of experience in social media content creation handling different brands over the years.

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Birches Group has been keeping track of the volatile economic conditions in Zimbabwe and wants to share updates on the current labor market conditions there.  

Waning trust in local currency 

Al Jazeera reports that Zimbabwean authorities are struggling to pull the Southeast African nation from the grip of a severe economic crisis characterized by a rapidly devaluing local currency. Trust in the Zimbabwean dollar (Zimdollar) has been low after people saw their savings depleted by hyperinflation in 2008. Our July 2022 salary survey of the Zimbabwe labor market notes that the economy had dollarized between 2009 and 2019. 

Although the Zimdollar was reintroduced in February 2019, it continues to be sidelined in favor of the United States dollar (USD). Businesses and individuals see the USD as more acceptable overseas and better at holding long-term value. Because the Zimdollar became untradeable outside the country, employers were required to start paying salaries in USD.  

Local media outlets such as NewsDay have confirmed that demand for USD salaries has increased across economic sectors. In an opinion piece for New Zimbabwe, African affairs expert Teresa Nogueira Pinto writes, “There are now increasing fears that the country will experience another hyperinflation crisis as in 2008.”  

An exceptional situation 

Our Market Monitor categorizes labor market conditions according to six levels of volatility. Since mid-July, Zimbabwe has been classified as Level Five, indicating a prevailing practice to denominate salaries in USD or Euros. In our most recent salary surveys of the country, we have further noted that employer participants across sectors (including the NGO sector) now denominate and pay salaries in USD. This includes cash and in-kind benefits. 

However, our latest surveys indicate little to no market movement since February. We have not observed any activity in our multi-sector salary survey. But as of July 2022, we have seen minimal movement in our NGO salary survey: pay rates for support-level staff increased by 1.9% and at the professional or managerial level by 0.2%. Nevertheless, inflation has continued to soar in the triple digits since May. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the country’s central bank, reported an annual inflation rate of 256.9% in July from 191.6% in June. 

Next steps for employers 

It is vital to have policies and procedures to keep pay programs functioning and maintain business continuity in countries like Zimbabwe, where the labor market is unstable. A Special Measures Policy should be established to determine the triggers for updating salaries and benefits. In addition, organizations must decide how they plan to implement the next steps for their staff. Employees need to know that they can rely on their employer to assist them during times of crisis.

How we can help 

We at Birches Group have extensive expertise in developing Special Measures Policies for organizations across different markets and sectors. Contact us today to find out how we can create one for you. 

References:


Birches Group wants to provide updates on the current labor market conditions in Ukraine, where the situation has been volatile.

Nearly six months under siege

Russia’s armed attacks against neighboring Ukraine show no signs of ending, and fighting intensifies after months of escalated conflict, said Rosemary Di Carlo, United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, at a UN Security Council briefing in late July. As the 2022 Russia-Ukraine conflict soon enters its sixth month, attention is increasingly turning to longer-term humanitarian, recovery, reconstruction, and socio-economic impact.

The war in Ukraine has prompted a massive outpouring of support since it began on February 24. The UN and its humanitarian partners have offered aid to 12 million people. Help has come from food and livelihood assistance, protection services, mine clearance, and clean water and sanitation access. Emergency hygiene items, health care, mental health care, and shelter have also been provided to Ukrainians directly affected by the conflict.

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that nearly one-third of Ukrainians have been forced to evacuate their homes. Over 11.1 million people have fled Ukraine’s borders; within the country, over 6.6 million people remain displaced.

Global NGOs respond

The global humanitarian response to the crisis has been swift and dynamic. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said at least 250 local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were helping in the aid response—a number that has more than doubled from before the war. An ACAPS report noted that international NGOs have scaled up their humanitarian operations in and around Ukraine in recent months. They are settling in for the long haul while developing recovery and reconstruction plans.

For example, the Médecins Sans Frontières team has almost quadrupled, with more than 650 staff. Save the Children International, whose Ukraine program was one of its smallest worldwide, is now set to become one of the largest.

Although the aid response has been positive, it has not been without challenges.

Challenges facing NGOs

As the Ukraine crisis pushes on, so has the demand for people with the skills and experience to fill critical humanitarian and development roles, Devex reports. With pledges to support Ukrainians continuing to be announced, Devex also notes a steady flow of job opportunities for development professionals. Among the international NGOs actively hiring in response to the invasion are Catholic Relief Services, HelpAge International, International Medical Corps, Red Cross and Red Crescent partners, Chemonics International, and Oxfam International. Response program managers, coordinators, and directors are among the advertised positions on job boards.

Next steps for employers

NGOs and commercial development organizations seeking to expand to or scale up their activities in Ukraine will need salary survey data. Salary survey data is a vital component in recruiting and hiring new staff. It helps organizations understand the market, identify key employees and potential talent, and ultimately make better decisions. Without this data, organizations are left in the dark and are unable to identify opportunities or assess talent.

Salary survey data can be used to benchmark compensation packages against the local market and help make informed decisions about how to retain employees. Survey data can also help organizations determine an appropriate salary for current staff, as well as the market rate for positions when hiring new people.

How we can help

We at Birches Group survey leaders in over 150 countries with a consistent methodology designed for developing markets such as Ukraine. We survey labor markets of different sizes, focusing on leading employers that set market trends. Our survey data empowers you to benchmark positions in local markets and to create salary structures tailored to each country’s requirements while conforming to global standards.

Speak with our consultants and experts to understand our data and how to use it for your organization today.

References:


When companies need to set or review salaries, they normally use local market data as their external reference. But what do you do when there is no local market data available? This is common in smaller countries where there are not as many established employers and little to no survey providers are present. As HR consultants, we have received many inquiries on this matter and have seen companies resort to using salary data from nearby countries in the region as their proxy.

While it is understandable that in this case, companies would think that salary data closest to them in terms of proximity could be a valid alternative because perhaps countries within the same region would share similar characteristics, this is certainly not the case. We conduct salary surveys in over 150 countries, three times a year and would argue that while the country next door would have many similar jobs as your own, salary rates and pay packages are considerably different.

In Birches Group, we believe that local staff salaries should always be based on local market data. Here’s why:

The cost of labor in every country varies significantly, even if they all belong to the same region. Local conditions and availability of talent are what drive salary movement in any country. Talent that could be widely available in one market, may be very limited in another. So, when smaller markets reference their salaries against larger markets, especially if they are regional locations where wages are usually three to four times higher, those salaries would be overstated if put into the local context.

Using the example above, this is a chart that illustrates the equivalent pay range for a BG-10, a Seasoned Professional, in each of the Southeast Asian labor markets. If you are an employer in Laos and lack salary data for a BG-10 level, it would not be advisable to reference the equivalent salary range in Thailand just because you share a border with them. Similarly, if you were to apply Thailand pay ranges locally in Myanmar, not only are you significantly overpaying, but this would also be challenging to defend and maintain moving forward.

Market practice on compensation and benefits is different for every country. For some markets, certain allowances or benefits are mandated by local law, while other markets do not share the same requirement. In other countries, employers provide benefits to address local hardships, such as a company shuttle provided to staff to address the lack of public transport. But if you look at other countries in the same region, this may not be the case. Also, some countries have benefits that are cultural in nature making it unique to their market, while others could have something else. If you reference pay practices from other countries, you risk ignoring the unique conditions of your own market. See this example below:

The chart above illustrates total compensation pay packages for a BG-10 Seasoned Professional in ten countries in east and southern Africa. If you look closely, each component of total compensation varies for every country. Using the example above on pay practices, if you are an employer in Tanzania for example, the pay mix at the BG-10 level is comprised of not only cash benefits on top of base salary but in-kind benefits as well. But choosing to use salary data from Kenya because they are close and they are a regional hub, the pay mix toward total compensation is not the same. If you apply this in the local Tanzanian context, you are missing market practices on in-kind benefits compared to other employers in the local market.

So What Should You Do?

If your organization is in a small market in need of salary survey data, we recommend working with a survey provider whose methodology is designed for developing markets. Survey providers are equipped to launch local salary surveys that can bring employers the market data they need to inform their pay management policies accordingly.

Birches Group’s Community Market Compensation and Benefits Surveys are designed with developing markets in mind. And because developing markets are dynamic, our surveys cover all elements toward total compensation to give our clients the full context of the local labor market. Contact us to access the market data you need or to learn more about our subscription options.


Want to know if your existing compensation practices have the elements of a good compensation program or if there are areas that could use some improvement? Take our quick Compensation Program Assessment Quiz


Bianca manages our Marketing Team in Manila. She crafts messaging around Community™ concepts and develops promotional campaigns answering why Community™ should be each organization’s preferred solution, focusing on its simplicity and integrated approach. She has held various roles within Birches Group since 2009, starting as a Compensation Analyst and worked her way to Compensation Team Lead, and Training Program Services Manager. In addition to her current role in marketing and communications, she represents Birches Group in international HR conferences with private sector audiences.

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Birches Group has been monitoring the volatile economic conditions in Sri Lanka and wants to provide updates on the current labor market conditions happening in the South Asian nation. 

The past few months have not been easy for Sri Lanka, and the condition has only worsened. The country has been facing economic, political, and social crises due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising foreign debt, and a depreciating rupee. According to a news report from BBC, the country’s inflation rate is now at 54.6% as of June 2022. Our August 1 Market Monitor shows that the exchange rate movement against the US dollar, Euro, British pound, and West African CFA franc in the past six months is at 79%. Moreover, after protests forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee to the Maldives and Singapore, Sri Lanka is in a state of emergency. 

Losing skilled talent 

These are challenging times for employers and staff in the South Asian island nation. It has been noted that there is an increasing number of skilled and educated Sri Lankans—from IT experts to hospitality and marketing professionals—who want to work overseas, where they can maximize the rupee’s devaluation and survive hyperinflation. According to Manusha Nanayakkara, the minister of labor and foreign employment, almost 168,000 Sri Lankans have registered to work abroad. Many intend to work in the Middle East, particularly in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). An independent survey conducted in November 2021 by the country’s Institute for Health Policy reveals that 1 in 4 Sri Lankans wanted to emigrate if they had the opportunity. This ratio has increased to 1 in 3 in July 2022.  

Compensation in Sri Lanka and the Middle East 

Our July 2022 multi-sector survey indicates that compensation ranges in Middle Eastern labor markets are significantly higher than in Sri Lanka. Our survey results show that the average annual salary ranges for support staff at Birches Group Level 6 in Sri Lanka receive a minimum of US$ 5,810 and a maximum of US$9,896, while a senior professional at Birches Group Level 10 receives a minimum of US$ 14,246 and a maximum of US$ 23,517. In Kuwait, support staff at Birches Group Level 6 would be paid approximately seven times more, between U$ 48,054 and US$ 76,418, while a senior professional at Birches Group Level 10 would receive between US$ 108,420 and US$ 153,708. As the chart above indicates, the figures are even higher in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. 

Next steps for employers 

Birches Group’s Market Monitor categorizes labor market conditions according to levels of volatility, with Level One as the lowest (reporting standard market conditions and market movement between 0–20%) and Level Six as the highest (where the country has reported labor market collapse, departure of most comparators from the market, and absence of reliable data on currency and inflation). In our most recent Market Monitor, Sri Lanka is now at Level Four, where labor market conditions reflect sudden, unexpected social or economic events, currency devaluation of 50% or more in six months or less, and there is disjointed and unclear comparator response. When the labor market becomes volatile, such as what we are seeing in Sri Lanka, organizations should place policies and procedures to keep pay programs functioning and to maintain business continuity. 

To avoid losing skilled employees leading to brain drain, organizations in Sri Lanka must address the situation by establishing a Special Measures Policy. Through the Special Measures policy, employers can define the appropriate triggers within labor market conditions that warrant a change or update in salaries and benefits. These triggers, in turn, outline what organizations will do to help cushion the impact of hyperinflation on their people.   

How can we help 

We at Birches Group have extensive expertise in developing Special Measures Policies for organizations across different markets and sectors. Contact us today to find out how we can create one for you. 

References: 

  • 1 August Market Monitor Report 

Birches Group has been keeping an eye on economic conditions in Ghana and wants to provide updates on recent developments in the West African nation. 

One of West Africa’s more prosperous countries has been rocked by a cost-of-living crisis. Inflation in Ghana reached 29.8% in June 2022, the highest level in two decades. The Guardian reports that food prices have risen by 30.7% since last year, and energy costs have sharply climbed. Transportation costs have also gone up. 

Our August 1 Market Monitor further indicates that the Ghana cedi has seen an exchange rate movement of 34% against the US dollar, Euro, British Pound, and West African CFA Franc in the past six months. As inflation persisted and broadened, hundreds took to the streets of the capital Accra to protest the deteriorating economy. 

President Nana Akufo-Addo has stressed that the economic challenges the country is facing are the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The government is seeking a support package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which visited Ghana in July. In a July 13 statement, the IMF said that such adverse developments “have contributed to slowing economic growth, accumulation of unpaid bills, a large exchange rate depreciation, and a surge in inflation.” 

What the labor market indicates 

The Ghanaian labor market exhibits rapidly evolving market conditions. Birches Group’s Market Monitor categorizes labor market conditions according to levels of volatility, with Level One as the lowest (reporting standard market conditions and market movement between 0–20%) and level six as the highest (where the country has reported labor market collapse, departure of most comparators from the market, and absence of reliable data on currency and inflation). In our latest Market Monitor, Ghana is classified as Level Three, where there are rapidly evolving market conditions, movement of more than 40% in the last 12 months, and multiple reviews and revisions are typical amongst comparators. While the surge of inflation has been swift in the country, labor market data has not moved as fast.  

Based on our salary survey analysis, no labor market movement was observed in July 2021.  

The chart above shows labor market movement in Ghana against reported inflation rates from July 2021 to July 2022 based on Birches Group’s multi-sector salary survey. As seen in the chart, labor market movement significantly increased in 2022, but inflation rates have always been much higher and moved at a faster rate from 2021. We believe this is because inflation or the cost of living is not directly proportional to the cost of labor. 

Next steps for employers 

When labor market conditions become volatile, such as in Ghana, organizations should establish policies and procedures to keep pay programs functioning and maintain business continuity. Through a Special Measures Policy, organizations need to determine the appropriate triggers based on labor market conditions that demand an update in salaries and benefits. Organizations must also decide how they plan to implement the next steps for their staff. Employees need to know that they can count on their employer to assist them amid the burgeoning crisis. 

How can we help 

We at Birches Group have extensive expertise in developing Special Measures Policies for organizations across different markets and sectors. Contact us today to find out how we can create one for you. 

References: 

  • 1 August Market Monitor Report 

What is the Great Resignation? Avoiding the Great Resignation, can companies or organizations do it? The trend of mass resignation can’t entirely be attributed to the pandemic, and some might even argue it isn’t a true phenomenon. But one cannot deny the number of recent resignations mostly stemming from employee dissatisfaction.

Because of the sudden shift in the work dynamic brought by the pandemic, employees have started thinking about what they truly value. Many questioned whether they were okay with companies returning to the way things were. Others questioned if there was a ‘normal’ to return to after the last two years. But for many of these employees, there was no going back. Let’s look at some of the reasons people resigned:

  1. Lack of Autonomy – Employees want the freedom to work in a way that suits them. They want to make decisions without their managers or supervisors looking over their shoulders. Being micromanaged doesn’t communicate trust and can be highly demotivating. It also takes away the sense of accomplishment the employee can get from putting in hard work.
  • Burnout – Staff are physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. They work long hours, and the work doesn’t give them any sense of accomplishment. Employees often struggle to find their purpose in the organization and focus on putting in the hours. Add a long commute and external stressors, and it’s a perfect recipe for burnout.
  • Inadequate Compensation and Benefits – Many cite low pay or lacking benefits as reasons for resigning. While having a competitive salary is always attractive, many now look for flexible work hours, output-based work systems, paid leaves, and work-from-home options. According to an article by LinkedIn on remote work, employers that offer remote or flexible work are better positioned to attract talent in a post-pandemic world. Work flexibility has become a top priority for employees when considering a new job.

Avoiding Employee Dissatisfaction and Being Part of the Great Resignation

Organizations can avoid employee dissatisfaction and being part of the Great Resignation through a purpose-driven organizational framework. We at Birches Group believe that organizations of all sizes and industries can improve employee satisfaction using a simple integrated method that starts with the job description.

Most organizations do not grasp the integral role that job descriptions play and how it facilitates several core HR functions. Clear, consistent, and purpose-driven job descriptions allow employees to shift from time-based work to one focused on purpose and outputs. When employees understand their work, they don’t need to be micromanaged by their supervisors. Employees can be empowered to make their own decisions and be trusted to do the job.

While it doesn’t seem like the obvious solution, clear, consistent, and purpose-driven job descriptions impact every aspect of human resources and workforce management. By taking this first step, organizations have the flexibility to structure their work model into a hybrid where employees can work from home when they need to and come to work to collaborate. At the same time, this addresses burnout. Working from home allows employees the freedom to work in a way that works for them and their lifestyle. Organizations can measure the work of their people through their outputs and focus on their staff’s skills development. Looking over the employee’s shoulders is no longer necessary. Gone are the days when employees need to clock in and out to prove they are working efficiently.

Because the importance of job descriptions is often overlooked, very few managers and HR practitioners are trained on how to write good job descriptions. Job descriptions should be more than just a checklist of things to do. A list focuses on process and individual tasks. In contrast, a good job description focuses on the role’s purpose and output.

Create Clear, Consistent, and Purpose-driven Job Descriptions in Three Easy Steps

As part of Birches Group’s larger Community™ approach and platform, our Job Design tool provides organizations clarity and ease in describing work. A good job description can be written in three steps:

Step 1: The Mission Statement – The mission statement is crucial, connecting the role to the organization’s larger mission and emphasizing why the job matters. It gives context to the role by describing the unit it belongs to, the broad function of the unit, and the position of the role in supporting the unit and its organizational objectives.

Step 2: The Functional Statements – The functional statements describe the intended functions and focus of the role. Organized using our three Community™ factors—PurposeEngagement, and Deliverywe offer guide questions and a lexicon of verbs, so each statement aligns with the appropriate grade level.

Step 3: The Skills and Qualifications Profile – The profile describes the level of generic expertise required for the role. This expertise can be specialized knowledge, experience in related fields, and language requirements that could facilitate the recruitment process for the role.

Through these three simple steps, our Community™ Job Design tool provides organizations a way to craft clear and consistent job descriptions that can easily be adapted according to the role’s job level and unit.

Good job descriptions help organizations address employee satisfaction and engagement issues because every employee wants to know their work matters. Through this first step, organizations pave the way to build an integrated, comprehensive model of work where employees know their contributions are valued.

To learn more about our Community™ Job Design tool and how it can help you create clear, consistent, and purpose-driven job descriptions, contact us.


Kai works in our Marketing Team in Manila. She creates online content around Community™ concepts and assists in developing promotional campaigns answering why Community™ should be each organization’s preferred solution, focusing on its simplicity and integrated approach. She has had years of experience in social media content creation handling different brands over the years.

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