The business and job environment in 2023 has been a mixed bag for the life sciences industry. Many life sciences companies, particularly those in vaccine ingredients and diagnostics and testing, have had to navigate an increase in layoffs following a step back from COVID-19 programmes.

In this article, we will explore highlights from Randstad Singapore’s 2024 job market and salary outlook report, which covers key labour trends and employer insights on salaries, bonuses and talent expectations in the life sciences industry. Download the full report to gain deeper insights for your talent attraction and workforce planning strategy in 2024.

life sciences industry growth
life sciences industry growth

vaccine makers still adjusting

Singapore-based makers of testing equipment and vaccine ingredients such as reagents had a lean 2023 as government-funded pandemic programmes came to an end. The withdrawal of that funding continues to impact the vaccine industry globally. In October 2023, Pfizer cut its annual revenue forecast by 13% and announced plans to reduce headcount in response to falling sales of its COVID-19 vaccine.

singapore’s investment in an ageing population

With total healthcare costs for the elderly projected to reach US$49 billion annually by the end of the decade, the Singapore government is proactively addressing the challenges of ageing. This is evident through their annual investment of S$400 million into preventative healthcare programme Healthier SG.

To this end, we see particular growth in gerontology and cell therapy, in addition to other public healthcare investments related to an ageing population.

cell therapy: a growing frontier in healthcare innovation 

The cell therapy sector offers exciting growth and, with a market predicted to top US$20 billion in the US alone by the end of the decade, it’s an area that’s seeing increased investment around the world.

In particular, there is growing demand for chimeric antigen receptor cell therapy (CAR-T). Because each CAR-T treatment is bespoke to the patient, it requires access to large amounts of medical equipment and resources. As a result, we’re increasingly seeing partnerships between big pharmaceutical and scientific companies to share resources such as instruments, researchers and medical practitioners.

Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Therapy Collaboration Centre Programme for example provides access to hardware and other services to support cell and gene therapy developers from clinical research to commercial manufacturing.

In August 2023 the Advanced Cell Therapy and Research Institute, Singapore (ACTRIS) opened a new 2,000 sqm cell therapy facility to provide lab facilities to support hospitals, academic institutions and biotech start-ups.

As this area continues to grow, Singapore has the potential to emerge as a regional hub in this promising new field.

limited appetite for food tech

Singapore has generally welcomed a wide range of food technology companies, including those producing plant-based foods and lab-grown meats, to drive economic development and strengthen food security. This strategic initiative aligns with the government’s 30 by 30 goal of producing 30% of the country’s nutritional needs locally by 2030.

Under the Food Manufacturing Industry Transformation Map 2025, Singapore aims to become a “trusted food and nutrition leader”, and is currently the only country in the world to approve the sale of lab-grown meat.

However this has yet to translate into significant growth. The industry has struggled globally as sales decline, driven by a combination of high prices and concern from consumers on taste and the high levels of processing needed to produce plant-based proteins. With funding harder to come by than during the tech boom, the sector in Singapore has found it hard to attract the right talent.

There’s always the possibility that a food tech company gives Singapore the biotech breakthrough it’s been looking for to grow the sector, but beyond this growth potential, we expect this area to remain relatively quiet in 2024.

2024 life sciences talent trends

Organisations are regaining optimism about hiring in 2024. Many companies held back on recruitment in 2023, but with growth opportunities emerging in the market, they will need to secure the skilled talent they need to capitalise on these opportunities.

Where pay is concerned, candidates expect increments of at least 10% to 12% when switching employers. But we also see companies offering flexible working arrangements enjoying an advantage, with candidates putting greater value on non-monetary factors such as a positive work-life balance.

Job stability has become the top priority for life science candidates seeking employment opportunities, alongside the enduring expectation of competitive pay.

Established companies with a successful track record abroad and a strong employer brand may find it easier to enter the Singapore market for the first time. Meanwhile, new market entrants may need to leverage differentiators such as hybrid and flexible work to stay competitive or offer more generous pay and benefits packages.

life sciences salary jumps will diminish slightly

Middle-level candidates could expect around a 12% to 15% salary increase on average when switching companies in 2023. However, we estimate that salary increments will decline slightly in 2024 to 10% to 12%.

Things look relatively unchanged for senior candidates who can expect on average a 10% to 12% increase, largely in line with what we saw in 2023. At the other end, we have seen some big jumps for junior candidates changing jobs for the first time, at around 12% to 15% salary increments on  average for junior roles.

For those remaining with their current employer we expect to see increases in salary of around 3% to 5% in 2024, broadly in line with trends in 2023.

the most in-demand life sciences roles in 2024

These are the top 4 most in-demand careers in life sciences in 2024:

  • Commercial roles, especially in business development and project management
  • Regulatory affairs
  • Quality assurance
  • Scientific and research roles
most in demand life sciences jobs in 2024
most in demand life sciences jobs in 2024

technical knowledge remains king

One of the most important factors in hiring skilled talent for scientific and research roles is technical competency, with employers making subject matter expertise a key requirement.

While employers are generally willing to invest in training for junior roles, they expect more senior hires to be effective immediately. This means that finding talent for more niche roles, such as those who are familiar with a particular piece of equipment, can be challenging.

We see more flexibility for roles outside the lab, with employers willing to look outside of their niche for positions like business development and regulatory affairs. This broadens the talent pool and makes soft skills more important. Given the complex and highly regulated nature of the industry, communication skills are highly prized, and we’ve seen that make the difference in deciding between multiple candidates.

download singapore’s life sciences industry and salary trends 2024.

The 2024 Randstad Talent and Salary Outlook report looks at talent analyses, key trends and new salary benchmarks in the following industries:

partner with randstad

Our specialised recruiters work closely with employers and talent for the perfect match with our true-fit methodology - a qualitative measurement designed to evaluate a talent’s suitability across three dimensions - job fit, boss fit and company fit. Connect with our recruitment consultants for the latest labour market insights and your unique talent recruitment needs.

If you’re a job seeker looking for better job prospects and career growth opportunities, start your career journey with us by applying to our latest life sciences jobs or submitting your CV to us.

build your team.

our expertise

find flexible talent.

contracting services