Job advertisements for professional positions in Malaysia, Hong Kong and China in April-June rose faster than in Singapore. And one of the likely reasons why they moved up faster was that more jobs are migrating from here to those places.

"The cost of business in Singapore is changing the corporate landscape," says Robert Walters Southeast Asia managing director Mark Ellwood. "Once the top choice for hubbing back office operations, corporates are increasingly moving these centres to cheaper regions." According to his recruiting firm, job ads for professionals jumped 12.2 per cent from the first to the second quarter this year in Malaysia, the biggest increase among the six locations in Robert Walters' quarterly Asia job index.

The increases for the other locations were 11.3per cent for China, 9.9per cent for Hong Kong and 5.6per cent for Singapore. The job ads fell 8.7per cent in Japan and 2.2per cent in South Korea from Q1 to Q2.

Job ad volumes for the six locations on the whole jumped 9.6 per cent during the period, despite reports of a slowdown in the Chinese economy in Q2. Yet, in all but one of the locations, ads declined from April to June.

They dropped 1.7 per cent in Singapore, 0.8 per cent in Hong Kong, 0.6 per cent in Japan, 5.5 per cent in Malaysia and 0.9 per cent in South Korea. Only in China was there an increase, of 4.5 per cent.

Still, retail services continued to see more job ads across Asia, with the numbers rising in China (7.6 per cent), Malaysia (9.2 per cent), Hong Kong (6.0 per cent), Singapore (9.1 per cent) and South Korea (4.6 per cent). "China and Malaysia led the way with the overall rise in job advertisments," Mr Ellwood says. "Malaysia is becoming one of the most attractive options for multinationals seeking to hub in South-east Asia with its improving infrastructure and standard of living on offer to professionals seeking to relocate or return to Malaysia."

While China's economic growth is projected to ease, he says that the development of tier two and tier three cities continues to drive corporate expansion - and companies moving there are looking to hire new professionals to support their growth.

Singapore's staying power is less clear. The job advertising numbers here actually fell 21.8 per cent from a year ago, no thanks to "the strengthening (Singapore) dollar, increasing cost of living and the rising number of companies re-hubbing to more cost-effective locations".

With more jobs being relocated to more cost-effective countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, Robert Walters Singapore managing director Toby Fowlston says contract positions are growing as a more attractive option for both employers and employees.

But job ads are still strong for retail and sales positions in Singapore, reflecting a resilient consumer market where new positions continue to emerge.

According to Mr Fowlston, Singapore remains a key economic centre for South-east Asia and a number of new companies have set up businesses, particularly across the technology, fast moving consumer goods and car sectors.

"While the investment banking sector in Singapore is seeing some cost challenges, other sectors are growing and we have been working with a number of companies which are setting up in Singapore," he says.