The Executive Summary to Business Expansion in SEA

business expansion in SEA
Table of Contents

The APAC region, particularly South East Asia, is ripe with opportunities for business expansion. That being said there’s no easy, one-size-fits-all approach. Each country is unique in its cultural norms, economic systems, business management practices, and response to the pandemic. We highlight some of the key factors for HR practitioners to consider for business expansion plans in South East Asia.


Still a welcome ground for foreign companies and workers, Singapore has recently eased up on its travel restrictions, adding eight new countries to its vaccinated and quarantine-free travel lanes. This establishes its position as a prime location as a hub for activities across APAC. Organizations looking to expand here will have to ensure that their staff and accompanying family members are fully vaccinated, except for minors and those with medical exemptions.

There’s never been a better time to hire Singaporeans, with the Jobs Growth Incentive providing salary support for local hires up till March 2022.


Now that Malaysia has achieved 90% vaccination rates for the adult population, the government has begun lifting restrictions on interstate and international travel. While existing businesses in Malaysia are on the road to recovering their losses, companies intending to set up shop in Malaysia will have to play the long game. A survey by KPMG showed that nearly half of Malaysia’s workforce will need to be reskilled to adapt to the new normal. Organizations that can provide extensive training programs alongside flexible working arrangements will lead the way in attracting local talent.


The employee experience is high on the list of human resource priorities in Indonesia, with the workforce calling for more holistic job benefits packages. Along with greater health support, company management is encouraged to adopt a more skills-based approach to hiring, as opposed to a traditional focus on work experience.

On the payroll front, businesses will have to adhere to provincial minimum wages, which will apply to all workers who have been employed by the company for less than a year.


The Philippines has yet to recover from COVID-19, but new measures are promising for foreigners. Its corporate income tax rates, which were previously some of the highest in APAC, have been lowered from 30% to 25% for nonresident foreign corporations. Recent amendments to the Foreign Investments Act (FIA) allow foreign investors to set up and own 100% of SMEs. The required number of direct hires has also been reduced to 15 from 50, relieving the burden on HR costs in small companies looking to do business there.


Companies wanting to expand into Thailand should look at qualifying for incentives under the Investment Promotion Act. This provides tax incentives and relaxed requirements on foreign participation. To ensure a smooth transition and less hassle, organizations should consider acquiring SMART visas for inbound staff, and obtaining vaccinations to avoid the 14-day quarantine period.


Businesses setting up in economically disadvantaged areas of Vietnam can enjoy decreased tax rates and tax exemptions for the next several years. However, Vietnam faces an ongoing talent shortage, with only 22.8% of the workforce possessing vocational training and skills above elementary qualifications. Human resource management challenges will involve attracting and retaining high-quality talent or upskilling the local workforce to be business-ready.

Ensure Business Success with PEO

As South-East Asia steps onto the path from pandemic to endemic living, existing policies and restrictions look to change drastically in the next several months. Stay up to date with the latest changes in local payroll policies with AYP’s Southeast Asia Payroll Guide 2021. We provide up-to-date, expert PEO services across SEA, giving you key insights that will allow you to hit the ground running wherever you choose to grow.

Featured Content

1. 6 Facts about Employment Insurance System in Malaysia

2. All thing You Have To Know Before Expand Business to Singapore

3. Build A Team in Philippines Without a Legal Entity

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