• Sat
  • Oct 18, 2014
  • Updated: 3:13pm
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong may benefit from stricter Singapore policy on hiring of foreigners

Lion City seeks to favour locals in hirings under its 'Fair Consideration Framework'; foreign professionals may now opt for Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 4:38am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 4:27pm

Hong Kong and Shanghai may have lost out to Singapore in the hunt for foreign talent over the years, but manpower experts believe a reversal is looming as the Lion City tightens the rules on the hiring of staff from overseas.

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower announced last September that under its new "Fair Consideration Framework", companies would need to consider locals before hiring from abroad.

"These changes are part of a broader effort to ensure that good jobs continue to be created for Singaporeans," said Tan Chuan-jin, acting minister for manpower at the time.

Starting from the first quarter of this year, companies with a disproportionately low concentration of Singaporeans at professional, managerial and executive level compared with other companies may be chosen for additional scrutiny.

Nick Marsh, managing director of recruitment firm Harvey Nash Asia Pacific, said over the years international companies and talented professionals had left Hong Kong and Shanghai for Singapore, mainly because of air pollution, limited school places and high rents.

"Lots of foreigners cannot get places in schools in Hong Kong. And they can get that in Singapore," Marsh said. "The regular conversations you have with foreigners in Hong Kong is, 'I have just had my rent hiked … 50 per cent'. It's either they cannot afford to live here or this is so stressful. 'I can go to Singapore and get an apartment for half the price'."

Marsh said another factor was that the Singaporean government gives several years of tax breaks for companies setting up offices in the country.

Five years ago, firms in Hong Kong were offering full expat pay packages, but now at least half of foreigners are offered a "local plus" package, Marsh said.

Full expat packages include full housing and schooling allowances, together with flights back home twice a year. "Local plus" packages mean half the housing allowance and often only one flight home.

Full expat packages in Hong Kong are still slightly more attractive than in Singapore. But many people prefer Singapore because of Hong Kong's air pollution, high rents and the difficulty in getting children into schools.

To give an example, a chief financial officer in Hong Kong earns a basic salary of about HK$2 million plus a HK$90,000-a-month housing allowance. In Singapore, the basic salary is HK$1.5 million plus a HK$60,000 housing allowance.

Marsh believes that Singapore's curb on foreign talent could mean that international firms and expats will opt for Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Pauline Chung Hei-ching, president of the Hong Kong People Management Association, said companies may move away from Singapore if the policies made it difficult to hire the international talent they need.


Locals First

Key points of Fair Consideration Framework

  • From January, qualifying salary for a work pass for a foreign professional up from S$3,000 (HK$18,350) a month to S$3,300
  • Firms will be subject to additional government scrutiny if they have disproportionately low concentration of Singaporeans at senior levels, and receive repeated complaints of nationality-based or other discriminatory HR practices
  • From August, companies with more than 25 employees must advertise vacancies on a new jobs bank to be run by the government. Ads must be open to Singaporeans and run for at least 14 calendar days.


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This article is now closed to comments

With the worsening air pollution problem and soaring rents and commodity prices, Hong Kong will be less and less competitive, no matter what opportunities are ahead.
This may be a price of getting close to the mainland while getting great economic benefit from it.
What economic benefit have the vast majority of Hong Kong people gotten from China? It has been a massive detriment to the average Hongkonger. The few rich who have benefited were actually already filthy rich before the independent traveler scheme was introduced.
We arrived in HK around 8 years ago. We were a young unmarried couple and completely loved the fast pace of life and relatively low cost of living compared with our native London (England). When I arrived I worked in finance, had a well paid job, and had a reasonable size apartment for a rent which was a little high compared to back home but nothing too crazy...
During the last 8 years in HK we got married, had two children, left the finance industry and started my own small business. Around us the pollution got worse, the cost of eating out and our own apartment rental have skyrocketed. We now also have school for two English speaking children to pay for and the cost of this in HK is quite crazy... We are not alone as many of our favourite small shops, restaurants and bars have all had to close their doors due to greedy landlords who unfortunately are in the driving seat due to their liquid cash bank accounts...
So it is with a heavy heart that six months ago we decided to leave HK this year... and guess where we are headed? Singapore! Clean skies, reasonable rent and lower cost of schooling means that we can actually put more of our money back into our business instead of into our landlords pocket... Many of our friends have made the same move over the last 12 months and many more are planning to do the same...
I am sorry HK but your greedy short-sightedness and as a good (long time resident of HK) has said, 'Greediness will be the death of you'...
Bye Bye HK!
Bob / been on a similar journey but recognised early in that in order to live here long term buying something to live in is critical. Your point about the landlords is the right one but you'll never beat them so take a deep breath and join them. Can I also suggest before binning Hk that you also give thought to the opportunities to do what u did here vs your native uk. I know I couldn't have done in oz what we've done here. Hk still has my vote ... Great place with fine people / I only worry about it becoming just another city of the mainland ... That is worth fighting against.
You have a very fair point here and I am sure that our decision about leaving would have been a lot harder had we made the same wise decision you made about buying a property when we had arrived or even a few years ago. Unfortunately we can't turn back the clock and it is now too late for us to get on the property ladder here. Trying to get a mortgage when you are in the early stages of starting your own business is difficult enough but the prices being asked in the market now make that almost an impossibility.
Please don't get me wrong. Our family still love a lot of things about HK and had a few things been different (eg, rental costs, schooling costs, pollution, etc) we probably would have loved to continue to live here. And you are also absolutely correct in that there are many opportunities and experiences we have had in HK which we never would have seen back in the UK...
Maybe we will be back when the air is a bit clearer (2020 according to yesterday's news) and the property market is hopefully a little more sensible...
The cost of pleasing China. Our stupid government!
InvestHK should read this article & consult with local Ministers, such as Canadian Greg So
Then publish the truth on their website about lack of English language school places, the fact the Govt then taxes the money you spend on exorbitant school fees instead of a tax break, suggest divisive cost of living surveys which omit rent and education costs from their flimsy numbers be banned & it's time to bring back the Landlord + Tenant residential protection that was conveniently struck off during SARS - there is enough pandering to the tycoons with legalized extortion in the property market & supermarkets already.
As for the pollution, our major polluter is Ocean Going Vessel shipping from 3 sides yet we have no Emissions Control Area, CLP will import more nuclear power for its local fuel mix which means it will burn more coal locally then export its generation back to the PRD that just lost the nuclear power, the Govt continues to push for an incinerator to brighten our air + extend flypit landfills, waste charging promised 2007 is 'under consultation', the Govt fails to collect separated waste from villages or private residential blocks (left to DIY), putrescible ultra wet domestic waste is our largest daily MSW component that taints any possible recycling of dry waste whilst overseas Green Bin food +garden clipping collections are collected by local councils FOC - yet these policy morons are paid far higher than professional Govts elsewhere.
The challenge with English language school places is that there is space in secondary but not in primary where real demand is. To be fair to mr so and the current administration this is an inherited issue (not dissimilar to the land supply one) where the previous leadership of the education dept relied on and published misleading data that supported their inaction. I recall that the usually reliable Alex Lo was sucked in by this propaganda and wrote an opinion piece supporting the notion that there was no issues with English language school places in 2012 when the real situation was quite the opposite. It is not the only issue in attracting and retaining foreign talent but it is a major one.
Singapore has been far too liberal about such hiring for too long, and have paid a heavy price for it . The public costs for hiring foreigners far out weight the benefits and it is only the Government who still believes in it. Expats should head to Shanghai rather than Hong Kong and Singapore.They are needed there more
*without being crushed....
what happened to the Edit button?




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