PricewaterhouseCoopers recently followed annual tradition by conducting a compensation and benefits survey across all major industries in Hong Kong. The aim of the exercise was to identify and analyse related policies and practices among organisations. The survey covered construction, consumer products, media and entertainment, finance and banking, medical and health care, academics and professional bodies, retail and trading, transportation and logistics, government and utilities and non-government organisations. One positive finding was that employers were prepared to give a salary raise to key performers. Employees should welcome this bit of good news, especially if they had not received salary increments or benefits over the past three years, or even had to accept a salary cut. 'We are not surprised by the finding - the United States economy is picking up and there is movement in the market,' said PricewaterhouseCoopers human resources services director Vivian Leigh. The median salary increase for this year is projected to be 1.5 per cent for performing staff. Those working for the insurance industry would receive the highest average pay rise - 2 per cent. 'This is the salary budget employers had set aside when they responded to the survey,' Ms Leigh said. 'Hong Kong employers are starting to loosen their purse-strings, specifically in relation to performers. Senior management has become more optimistic about the market environment but is still cautious about decisions on pay.' It is understood that the increments would also apply to the banking and finance sector. But a freeze on salaries would prevail this year for academic and professional bodies, and employees involved in construction, consumer products, government and public utilities. The highest annual salaries were received by engineers, actuaries and those in the logistics industry. Those falling into the lowest range would be back-office employees and those involved in corporate support, such as insurance policy management and general administration. Ms Leigh said employers were willing to pay more to attract and retain good talent. The higher annual pay categories ranged from $1.06 million to $1.32 million, while the lower annual salary scale ranged from $643,000 to $670,000 per annum. Meanwhile, the survey found that the use of contract staff was a dominant human resource practice among the participating organisations. About 80 per cent of them were hiring contract staff; 47 per cent were reported to have a contract staff headcount of less than 10 per cent, and all were considering maintaining a similar staff ratio next year. 'The permanent positions will still be here. But there will be more project works, and the jobs will also involve senior positions,' she said. It was found that people were becoming increasingly open to the concept of contract work because they were now more geared to achieving a work/life balance, and that the preset time frame of contract assignments suited their requirements. Another welcome sign was that employers were able to keep to their training budgets despite the sluggish economy. The participating organisations were investing an average 1.4 per cent of the total payroll for training and education, compared with the 2 per cent invested during the good times. 'This year employers are sending out a clear message that employers are putting pay for performance into practice. Organisations are matching results with rewards for their employees,' she said.