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How Much Do Software Engineers Make In The Region?

If you look at the job market today, you will notice that the tech sector continues to dominate globally with highly sought out jobs and high pay. So if you’re a programming enthusiast, there are many countries eager to snap you up as data analysts, software engineers, and developers.

But which countries offer the best opportunities for programmers?

If you take a look at English-speaking countries, most of the highest-paying jobs are in the U.S. (West Coast of course), United Kingdom (London), Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands (Amsterdam), Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand.

If you look at non-English speaking countries, China, Japan, and Russia top the list. But it doesn’t stop there, as India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Singapore are also popular IT markets that are constantly growing.

Although the median salary in Asia is often much lower than those offered in Silicon Valley, the lower cost of living will make it easier to stomach. This is good news, as it will be much harder for top talent to reach San Francisco in the years to come.

The Impact of U.S. H-1B Visa Reforms

Immersed in endless code. Image credit: Markus Spiske/raumrot.com

Current H-1B reforms in the U.S. have doubled the minimum salary requirement for visa holders to USD 130,000 annually. This will make it very difficult for tech companies to replace American workers with foreigners.

This turn of events will have a huge impact on the region, as almost 86% of the H-1B visas issued by the U.S. government for computer-related occupations were for IT professionals from India.

At the same time, with Canada and other emerging markets trying to snap up top tech talent from overseas, it’s probably safe to assume that we won’t have a high number of coders competing for limited jobs in South Asia.

What’s the Going Rate for a Software Engineer in Sri Lanka?

The information and communication technology (ICT) sector in Sri Lanka has been growing rapidly in recent years. However, most of the government agencies on the island, especially in rural areas, are not fully IT-based.

The information technology and business process outsourcing on the island have tripled exports (to an estimated USD 850 million in 2015) and doubled the workforce in little over five years. That’s a growth of almost 120% in five years ‒ making it the fifth largest export segment and one of the highest growing areas in the local economy.

According to Sri Lanka Association of Software and Services Companies (SLASSCOM), IT and business process management in the country are expected to grow up to USD 5 billion in revenue by 2022. Further, it’s also expected to create 200,000 direct IT jobs and 1,000 startups.

All of this is great news for the country and the IT sector as a whole, but how much can software engineers earn in this growing marketplace?

When compared to the global IT job market, not so much.

According to Startup Genome, a website where employees (both current and former) review companies and management anonymously, a software engineer on the island can make about LKR 139,000 per month.

What about Bangladesh?

Bangladesh is also emerging as a key player in the IT space, especially in Dhaka, which is quickly becoming a hub for freelance IT and IT-enabled services outsourcing (ITES). This is evidenced by approximately 800 IT-related companies in the country.

Excluding telecommunication, the size of the ICT market is expected to be worth around USD 300 million. Further, the software and IT industries’ share is about 39% of the market with around 50,000 professionals now employed in the sector.

So how much can software engineers earn in Bangladesh?

According to Glassdoor, coders in Dhaka can make anywhere from BDT 58,875 to 81,450 per month. This figure is slightly better than what programmers earn in Colombo.

What’s the Pay Scale in India?

Making money in India is not always easy. Image provided by Sohel Patel.

When it comes to IT in South Asia, India is the giant that carries the title of the world’s largest sourcing destination for the IT industry. In fact, it accounts for about 67% of the USD 124-130 billion market that provides IT services to the U.S. at a rate that’s three to four times lower than the going rate in North America (which is their Unique Selling Proposition).

The workforce in the industry is also 10 million strong and this has lead to a significant economic transformation in the subcontinent. The sector is also expected to triple its annual revenue to USD 350 billion by 2025.

The Indian technology sector is also growing in multiple different directions with a vibrant startup scene that is ranked third among the global startup ecosystems boasting over 4,200 startups. The nation’s internet economy is also expected to reach INR 10 trillion by 2018, which will account for 5% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Surprisingly, the average salary for a software engineer in India is pretty similar to wages in Sri Lanka. According to PayScale, the national average for a software developer is INR 429,000 per year. But if you’re working for a behemoth like TATA, you can earn a little more, approximately INR 506,302 annually.

In Singapore, software engineers can earn significantly more as the average pay is about SGD 49,000 per year (which also reflects the cost of living in the country). At the same time, the average salary in Indonesia is approximately IDR 93,841,325 per year (which is a lot lower at about USD 7,000).

In emerging markets like China you can earn around CNY 150,000 annually, in Malaysia an average of RM 47,000 annually, and PhP 31,428 a month in the Philippines. In Vietnam, the average salary is about VND 263,035,714 a year.

A breakdown of salaries from across the region

As a result, tech salaries in South Asia can leave an IT professional dreaming of greener pastures in Silicon Valley, Vancouver, or even Singapore. Let’s face it ‒ who wouldn’t want to work with leading industry giants while earning the most competitive wages on the planet?

But you also have to consider the fact that salaries reflect the cost of living in that country. So even if you’re earning SGD 49,000 a year in Singapore, you won’t have as much purchasing power as you would, if you were earning that same amount in Sri Lanka.

Western economies still offer the best remuneration packages for software engineers, but the recent backlash against immigration in countries like the UK and the USA will limit those opportunities.

One thing is for sure, IT in South Asia is going through a period of acceleration, so you can expect the pay scale to improve as the industry grows.

Featured image credit: Hitesh Choudhary

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