• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 10:53pm
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

These changes in Singapore are minor adjustments and will make absolutely no difference to the typical expat who exits HK due to soaring rents, choking air and critical lack of decent schooling options. Singapore has worked hard to improve its international credentials and attractiveness over the past decade while HK has focused on pouring concrete, letting in mainland tourists and avoiding doing anything that might raise the ire of Beijing. Whoever wrote this piece needs a major reality check.
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!
They could be Singaporeans.
Um, what? There are lots of foreign nationals in HK with various types of visas, permanent and non-permanent, who work, pay taxes and send their children to school here. Am I missing something subtle about your post or are you missing the obvious?
Sure, good move. Along with "mother tongue" instruction, Hong Kong will really go places - as long as those places can be reached by going down the toilet.
As "foreigners" cannot legally take up employment in Hong Kong, it doesn't make sense that employers would be willing to offer such high compensation to an illegal worker. In addition, primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong are only permitted to enrol legal residents of Hong Kong therefore "foreigners" would under no circumstance be able to legally enrol their pre-tertiary child into any school in Hong Kong.
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
The most striking aspect I saw when on a recent trip to Singapore was the number of young, expat families there. And why not? Cleaner air, school places, space to move about without being crushed by hoards of mainlanders....Donald's obsession of pouring concrete to accommodate mainland tourists has destroyed HK.
Why are they not happy with their own homelands?
(if Chinese people move overseas, there are all sorts of criticisms about them voting with their feet etc. There is no criticism of European expats living in all other places of the world. I wonder why that is.)
Does this mean we will be getting Anton Casey in Hong Kong?



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