Is Hong Kong’s job market now a ‘seller’s market’ or ‘buyer’s market’?
The reaction from most to this question will naturally be to complain about the difficulties in finding good jobs in Hong Kong. But when you speak to some human resources experts, the answer may not be as simple as you think.
According to a new survey, 95 percent of Hong Kong's financial services employers admit it is still challenging for them to find skilled financial services professionals.
How challenging? At least six percent more challenging than the global average, the survey by global human resources consultancy firm Robert Half shows.
“Competition for the industry’s top talent has intensified, particularly risk and compliance professionals who continue to be in high demand as companies navigate unprecedented regulatory shifts locally and globally while growing their core business,” said Pallavi Anand, director for Robert Half in Hong Kong.
Indeed, it’s more than about just hiring - it's about how to keep your best-performing employees loyal to the company. In Hong Kong, 93 percent of financial institutions responding to the survey say they are concerned about losing their top performers to other opportunities. Again, the number is 10 percent higher than the global average to show how serious such industry concerns in Hong Kong are nowadays.
What the survey failed to mention was how financial institutions in Hong Kong attempt to poach talent from each other. That's no secret to many experienced hirers and those good performers who know their ‘market value’ and how to get such values to appreciate further.
Some global banks, when hiring senior executives from rival firms in Hong Kong, will offer candidates terms including a guarantee of one or two years’ salary in the event he or she is laid off within that period. Such terms could also provide a guarantee on a certain amount of money as an annual bonus no matter how good or bad the financial market environment is.
Our readers may argue all the situations mentioned above could be only for experienced professionals who have far less trouble when they try to land in a new job. What about fresh graduates in Hong Kong?
Coincidently, right after I received the Robert Half survey, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) also issued its own report on how the job market looked like in 2012 for its fresh graduates. The numbers are so good that some HKU students and graduates dared not believe them.
According to the HKU report , produced by the Careers and Placement Section of the HKU Centre of Development and Resources for Students (CEDARS), the average monthly salary of HKU graduates rose 6.8 percent from HK$18,350 in 2011 to HK$19,598 in 2012 and the university was happy to report that the employment ratio of its graduates reached 99.7 percent in 2012, reflecting a very positive job market outlook in Hong Kong for its graduates.
The most positive job sectors that made the biggest increase in salaries in 2012 included insurance (14.6 percent up), trading and marketing and retail sectors (9.1 percent up) and construction (8 percent up). Employment market for professional services also saw an increase in salaries in 2012, including quantity surveying (9.4 percent up), architecture (4.3 percent up) and law (3.2 percent up), the HKU survey shows.
Privately, some industry watchers speculate that the reason some students and graduates still complain online about the job market situation in Hong Kong is that they may have set their expectations higher than that of the employer, who may feel uncomfortable offering positions to those with little working experience.
Let's be more realistic. In Hong Kong, to earn around HK$20,000 a month cannot afford to buy you a nice apartment any time soon but the money may be more than okay for young people to take care of themselves as the first step towards their independent life and career path in the long run.
Both surveys may well explain one common factor: when you go to the job market, it’s more about how good you are than how good the job opportunities are. If you are better than what your hirers expect, you can always find good jobs no matter what state the job market is in.
In short, that’s just what competition means.
George Chen is the Post's financial services editor. Like the Mr. Shangkong column about Shanghai and Hong Kong? Visit facebook.com/mrshangkong