Hays, Michael Page, Robert Walters and SThree. These four leading recruitment businesses employ over 20,000 workers and generate billions in revenue.

We’ve listed the key takeaways from their quarterly reports.

UK growth is up, but at a slower pace

The UK had a mixed response in Q4 amid uncertainty surrounding Brexit. The B-word continues to play a hand in hiring plans with business investment at its worst period since the financial crisis.

Although Brexit is having an impact, all four agencies experienced growth. Michael Page and Robert Walters both registered growth of 2%, Hays performed slightly better at a growth rate of 3%.

Specialist STEM recruiter SThree reported mixed sector performances in the UK. Energy, Engineering and Life Sciences did well, however more traditional sectors of IT and Banking & Finance were both down. Hays reported that at specialism level, IT delivered strong growth in net fees, up 13%. Accountancy & Finance and Office Support grew by 3% and 2% respectively. Construction & Property fell 1%, and Education continues to be impacted by tough market conditions, with net fees down 10%.

Fast-growing Germany

Central Europe and in particularly Germany performed strongly in the final quarter of the year. Robert Walters saw their net fee income increase by 25%. Hays delivered another strong quarter with 15% net fee growth whilst their temp & contracting business, which together represented 84% of Germany net fees, grew by 13%.

Michael Page had another impressive quarter in one of their core markets. Overall their German arm of the business grew 28% with the interim business growing an impressive 44%.

SThree also recorded solid growth in Germany, with their permanent gross profit growing by 16% and contract by 22%. Information and communications technology (ICT) remains the largest and most prevalent sector in the country for the company.

Other sectors that received growth reported by Hays were IT and Engineering, both grew by 11%. Growth in Accountancy & Finance was again excellent at 28%, as was Construction & Property, up 21%. Sales & Marketing grew by 17%.

Growth in high potential markets

HSBC predicts 70 percent of global growth over the next 12 years will come from high potential markets. Morgan Stanley lists 24 main high potential markets, although China and India take the top spots as the big high potential markets powerhouses – due to them being people-centric/driven economies. Michael Page’s India business grew 79% up from 68% in Q3 – which was a standout.

Robert Walters operates in Asia and the Pacific and had five countries deliver net fee income growth in excess of 25%+. These countries were Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Mainland China.

Michael Page also had growth in high potential markets, its South East Asia region grew 30% with Singapore up 37%. The company also had success in South America where the Brazilian market continued to perform well, growing 25% – its fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. Hays didn’t perform as well in South America as its Brazilian market declined 2%.

Hays experienced better results in Asia. The region delivered a strong performance overall, with net fees up 18%. China, their third largest RoW country, produced a record quarter and grew by an excellent 33%. Singapore returned to growth with an excellent 25%.

APAC & ME and in particular Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai performed well for SThree, its contract GP grew by 48% driven by both the ICT and Energy sectors.

China vs Japan

China has taken overtaken Japan as one of the fastest-growing economies and an emerging market powerhouse. It is now battling for the top spot with the U.S.

Greater China, is one of Michael Page’s larger markets. Although being a high potential market it only grew 12%, way below its Q3 growth rate of 31%, due to confidence in Mainland China being affected by trade tariff uncertainty. On the other hand, the company had success in Japan, where continued focus on both the Gaishikei and Nikkei markets, grew 28%, a third consecutive record quarter.

SThree’s growth in Japan dwarfed Michael Page’s as the business delivered a stand-out performance this year, with Japan growing its GP by 85%. Hays wasn’t as successful, they had a tough quarter and ended the period down 6%.

China might be the bigger, faster-growing country but it seems these four leading agencies are having more success in Japan, the slower more established economy.


  • UK jobs market defies economy’s Brexit slowdown
  • Opportunities in contract are overtaking perm as economic uncertainty and the way we choose to work continues to change
  • High potential markets will be key for growth over the next decade – look to expand into new territories such as China, Germany, India, Japan and Singapore
  • Mainland Europe continues to be a core, high performing market