Asia Pacific Firms Looking to Increase Wellness Programs

November 1, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – According to Mercer’s Asia Pacific Total Health and Choice Benefits 2011 Survey, employers in the emerging markets of Asia Pacific continue to face the challenges of significant economic growth, as well as increasing employee health risks and rising demand for services.  

Eighty-one percent of companies are concerned about the current and future health of their employees. The top three drivers for promoting health and wellness in their organizations are productivity, performance, and talent retention.

Health benefits costs as a percentage of payroll are increasing. Thirty-five percent indicate they are spending more than 6% of payroll on the provision of their health benefits package, while 10% of respondents are spending more than 15%.

More than half the respondents are looking to increase their health and wellness programs in the next three years, although most larger organizations are looking to share these costs with employees.

Eighty-one percent currently do not provide choice in their benefits program, and only 19% offer some degree of choice. The three key industry sectors that offer choice include financial services (24%), hi-tech & technology (23%), and professional & other services (29%).

Fifty-nine percent of respondents that don’t currently offer “choice” plan to do so within three years, with the BPO/Call Centre and financial services industries heading the list at 76% and 65% of respondents, respectively.

Reasons for Choice

Market competitiveness (21%), meeting diverse employee needs (20%), and moves toward a total rewards program (17%) are the top three reasons for respondents who had implemented a choice program.  Respondents reported that their choice program had strong or significant impact on meeting diverse employee needs (43%), employer branding (35%), and total rewards strategy (34%).

According to the survey, complexity continues to be a key challenge to employers in offering choice in their benefits programs. Despite this, an overwhelming 97% will continue with the existing employee choice program.  

The most popular health programs are annual employee health checkups (84%), biometric screening tests (59%), and health talks/health fairs (49%). Firms want to invest in more innovative and interventional programs in the next two years through expanded use of health risk assessment questionnaires (47%), stress management (46%), and chronic disease management (43%).

In general, employers are recognizing the value of including families in their policies to be a key differentiator and a highly regarded benefit for employees. Fifty-two percent of the companies surveyed provide health management programs to their employees’ children, while 40% cover employees’ spouses. Thirteen percent provide programs to parents and 5% to retirees.

The survey was carried out between February 21 and April 22, 2011, with almost 900 employers participating throughout Asia Pacific. It covers 14 markets within the region including Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, India, Hong Kong, and China.

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