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Singapore's successful positioning as an attractive destination has led numerous international banks to base their operations and information technology (IT) infrastructure here.

More often than not, an organisation’s strategy to set up its new team would include hiring permanent resources, as well as outsourcing specific operations to various IT services companies and independent contractors.

A contractor is a specialist in a specific area who is hired for a fixed term to complete an allocated task. Because these people are professionals in their area of expertise, they are typically paid a premium salary.

An individual specialising in a technical field has two career choices: take on the managerial career route or become an expert individual contributor.

Contracting is a very popular career path in Europe, America, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. This is due to the flexibility it provides to an individual’s lifestyle. Contracting professionals often make use of the breaks in between contracts to pursue hobbies or travel plans.

A majority of IT professionals generally have a high preference for specialising in a niche area while moving on from one organisation to another. This gives them an opportunity to gain exposure to new environments, technologies and projects, which contribute to their knowledge and expertise.

Based on the types of projects they are exposed to, they are often able to increase their rates after garnering adequate experience in various areas of expertise.

From an organisational perspective, there are many benefits of hiring talents on contract:

  • Completing a six-month task in three months by employing an expert provides a more cost-effective solution to an organisation.
  • Having a pool of contractors offers more flexibility in maintaining the workforce balance in times of a downturn.
  • Contracting offers an initial insight into new markets that will help in making manpower decisions in countries with stricter labour laws.
  • Headcount issues can be easily managed by hiring talents on contract and passing on the responsibility of human resource administration to professional organisations instead. Organisations have the flexibility to transfer talents from one project to another based on appropriate skills sets required for different projects.

Contracting in Asia

Before the global IT revolution, the working culture in Asia had generally been skewed towards job longevity and stability, thus resulting in the contracting option being a less popular form of employment.

But Asian countries are now rethinking the temporary work option, partly because it falls somewhere between two extremes — the once-famous Japanese working philosophy of “one company, one career, one life” and the current infamous ethic of “one year, one company” embraced by software engineers in India.

Contracting offers a middle path solution for the budding software professional who is hungry for exposure to new projects, more attractive compensation packages and new environments, as well as the employer on the lookout for expert talents to take on high–profile projects without having to commit to progressive career growth or an investment in long-term permanent headcount.

Nevertheless, this seemingly “win-win” situation has its own challenges which need to be addressed if contract work is to become a truly viable option in Asia. - Source: Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network

Article by Niharika Chaturvedi, a senior consultant (IT banking contract division) at Robert Walters.