Hiring predicted to be strongest on record

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 February, 2011, 12:00am

The final quarter of last year was a time to celebrate for job-seekers, as companies stepped up hiring through the holiday season. But based on a report by one of the city's oldest-established recruitment firms, the recently released figures may soon be dwarfed by those for the present quarter, which is fast shaping up as the strongest on record.

'In the 12 years I've been here, I've never seen as positive a report as this one,' says Dan Chavasse, regional head, north Asia for Michael Page, the company that undertook the study. 'We're going into 2011 with an enormously positive frame of mind from our clients and from candidates as well.'

The quarterly report, based on an online survey of 500 hiring managers and human-resources professionals, showed that 51 per cent of those asked expect an increase in staff numbers for this quarter, with just 8 per cent forecasting a decline.

The bulk of the increase is tipped to stem from a rise in the number of revenue-generating frontline roles, with the recruitment of operational and back-office staff also expected to play a big part.

'Frontline tends to be the one that comes through first,' Chavasse explains. 'Then, as your business grows, you start to hire back-office and operational people to support them, and that's exactly what we're seeing.'

In terms of volume, 56 per cent of respondents foresee an overall headcount increase of up to 5 per cent. A notably large 38 per cent, meanwhile, anticipate a rise of 5 to 10 per cent.

At the regional level, employment forecasts for Hong Kong fell two points shy of those in Singapore, where 53 per cent predicted increases. Both cities, however, remain well behind sentiments on the mainland, where a healthy 61 per cent expect staff members to rise.

The positive expectations were matched by an equally positive stance on general business conditions, which 56 per cent of participants agreed would improve within the coming month. This was partially buoyed by the 42 per cent of respondents who also expect an improvement in international demand for their products and services.

The second quarter is unlikely to be as robust as the first, which tends to be the busiest time of year for recruitment activity, largely due to job switching. 'Adjusting for seasonality,' Chavasse says, 'we'll likely be in for a very strong Q2 as well.'