FOR the first time in a decade, purchasing power levels of managers around the region have dropped. And Hong Kong, despite its peg to the US dollar at a time when the region has been hurt by devaluations as well as increasing salaries, has not been exempt. In the past year, the purchasing power of senior managers in the SAR dropped 5.8 per cent, even though their salaries went up to US$146,304 this year from $141,624 last year, according to the annual survey by World Executive Digest, published by the ASM Group. The survey defines a senior manager as a head of a division within a corporation, or the head of a function with a large impact on the corporation's results, having 11 to 50 subordinates and between six and 10 years' experience. Middle-level managers in Hong Kong were hit almost as hard, with purchasing power falling 4.3 per cent. Salary increases have been slowing for the past couple of years, as high costs erode the competitiveness of companies around the region. 'Asian executives, especially in Hong Kong and to a certain extent in Singapore, have become extremely expensive, making companies uncompetitive,' Hong Kong-based Peter Bennett, principal consultant of executive search firm Bennett Associates said. But the present slowdown has taken things a step further, forcing executives 'to fight for their jobs, their positions and their companies', Mr Bennett said. According to Alfred Chown, principal at Executive Leasing, people are more wary about leaving their jobs. 'They're willing to take the outcome of the crisis whereas six months ago, they would have walked out the door,' he said. 'Salary increases in Hong Kong that were just taken as par for the course were all of a sudden very, very rapidly being stopped.' The only city in the region which saw purchasing power increase across the board was Singapore. Senior managers in the republic recorded a 1.4 per cent increase in purchasing power, while middle managers were 9.1 per cent better off. Senior managers in Manila posted a record 9.1 per cent rise in purchasing power, but this was soured by a 7.1 per cent fall for middle managers. Not surprisingly, the biggest pain was felt by managers in countries reeling from declines in currency values where local salaries were either frozen or cut by up to 50 per cent. Senior managers in Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul saw a drop in purchasing power of up to 30 per cent compared with last year.