PAY rises will only average 7 per cent this year but still outpace inflation, according to a survey by human resources and employee benefit consultants Watson Wyatt.
Although lower than the 1996 average rise of 8.6 per cent, salaries would nevertheless remain 2 per cent ahead of the projected 5 per cent cost-of-living rise, the study predicted.
The trend represents a 1.2 per cent fall in the weighted average for salaries but also reflects a slow down in rent hikes.
While pay rises may be lower, so are rent increases.
The survey of 122 companies employing nearly 100,000 staff took into account pay rises in January, which were awarded at 40 per cent of work places.
Hi-tech staff are forecast to enjoy the highest pay increases, averaging 10.3 per cent.
Stockbrokers and financiers can also expect above-average salary hikes averaging 9.7 per cent.
Those in the shipping and trading sectors - nearly one-third of the Hong Kong workforce - are likely to receive the lowest awards of around 6.4 per cent.
Commanding the highest salaries in the executive end of the market, according to the survey, are regional finance directors earning an average $1.372 million a year, rising to $2.6 million.
Regional heads of marketing and sales are close behind on $1.27 million.
An executive in charge of local, rather than regional, manufacturing, information technology, human resources, administration or finance for a large firm is, on average, earning between $938,000 and $1.1 million.
Watson Wyatt identified several new trends in the survey. 'Performance-related pay [merit bonus] is becoming more popular and is particularly prevalent in the manufacturing sector,' said managing director Paula DeLisle.
She said 84 per cent of companies had adopted the practice. Senior management benefited most, typically receiving the equivalent of 18.3 per cent of their annual salary.
Professional and general staff were more likely to receive a windfall of 10.5 to 12 per cent.
Tax-effective salary packages were also 'now more common'. Half of the companies surveyed included in salaries a rent provision worth 40 per cent, together with 'holiday warrants' worth another 10 per cent.
Only 7 per cent of companies actually provided staff accommodation but 20 per cent provided housing loans.
Another notable increase had been in the number of companies providing dental benefits. Only one- third of companies offered such cover in 1992. But, by this year, 47 per cent of firms surveyed were collecting bills for check-ups, extractions and fillings.
All firms covered hospital and clinic treatment, with two-thirds of them also paying for dependants. But only 31 per cent provided maternity benefit.
The survey indicated that bonuses were becoming more flexible, according to performance. Retirement and life insurance plans were offered by around 90 per cent of firms.
Good news for employees is a continuing trend towards the five- day week. In 1992, 17 per cent of firms made staff work on Saturday. Now, only 9 per cent impose a six- day week.
Holidays are not getting much longer in notoriously hard-working Hong Kong. Management averaged 15 to 16 days, while professional/general staff could only take 12 to 13 days, along with public holidays. Yet a handful of firms had increased management vacations to more than 30 days, with the remainder of staff entitled to 23 days.
Working hours averaged 39.2 a week, or close to the traditional eight-hour day for a five-day week. However, some firms on a six-day week had staff working up to 47 hours.
Just over a half of companies provided cars but mostly only for senior management. Thirty-one per cent with cars also had chauffeurs.
Probationary periods for new recruits are generally three months with the policy imposed by 85 per cent of companies. Only 10 per cent of companies do not bother with probation and even fewer impose six- month periods.