Inflation could offset expected pay increases, survey forecasts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong workers are expected to be given pay rises this year but inflation will probably blunt their spending power, an international group said yesterday.

Salaries in the city are forecast to rise by 4 per cent, the same increase for the past two years, the latest salary trends survey by consultants ECA International said. However, the pay rise will be the second lowest in Asia and 3.3 percentage points below the regional average, according to ECA, which bills itself as the world's largest membership organisation for international human resources.

It was not unusual for developed economies such as Hong Kong to see lower salary increases than in developing areas, where rates of economic growth were higher, Lee Quane, ECA's Hong Kong general manager, said.

The group's survey forecast that Asian workers would probably still enjoy the highest salary increases worldwide, with an average increase of 7.3 per cent.

In Hong Kong, inflation could offset the predicted salary increase. This meant people's purchasing power had not been increasing as rapidly as in the past, Mr Quane said. This could see businesses forced to add to cost-of-living adjustments for internationally assigned workers while having to give extra incentives, such as performance bonuses, to workers hired locally who were thinking of changing jobs.

Mr Quane said: 'It's not like they're definitely going to have to, but if a company wants to maintain its competitiveness ... it has to ensure that cost-of-living allowances provided to expatriate employees keep pace with the rates of inflation.'

Mr Quane estimated that at least 15 per cent of the local workforce, the same level as last year, would change jobs this year.

Meanwhile, the Hudson Report, a quarterly survey of employers' hiring expectations, which polled 683 executives from Hong Kong, Japan, Shanghai and Singapore, said 58 per cent of them expected to hire more staff in the first quarter of this year, up from 54 per cent in the previous quarter. The report also found that employers in the four cities were in a generous mood, with 30 per cent expecting to award bonuses of more than 20 per cent of annual salary.

But despite higher salaries and bonuses, nearly 40 per cent of respondents said they were seeing staff turnover of 10 per cent.