From manufacturing to education and insurance, opportunities are rising The Hong Kong job market grew by a healthy 22 per cent in the second quarter from the same period last year. This was achieved despite consistent concerns over the rising cost of doing business in Hong Kong as wages pick up, and worries that the city's comparative edge was being eroded by the poor air quality, as well as a rising work quality on the mainland. Local white collar workers are still viewed by employers as more competent and reliable than their mainland or Singapore counterparts according to market watchers, which explains the boom. The latest jobs survey carried out by the South China Morning Post and advertisement monitoring services provider admanGo, recorded 71,084 jobs advertised in the second quarter - a 22 per cent increase from the 58,201 posted in the second quarter of last year. The survey tracked job vacancies advertised in six major recruitment publications on a monthly basis. In the first six months of this year, 135,543 vacancies were advertised, a rise of 20 per cent from 112,991 posted during the same period last year. Recruitment activities slowed down in April (20,650 jobs) after an active month in March (31,834 jobs). However, the rest of the second quarter saw steady growth from 22,799 jobs in May to 27,635 in June. The trading industry came back significantly in the past three months after a slow start to the year - the number of jobs advertised has jumped by 46 per cent from 4,750 in the first quarter to 6,936. Sector-wise, jobs offered by the manufacturing industry increased by about 20 per cent. Vacancies in the education and training industry have risen from the first to the second quarter of this year from 3,621 to 4,536 - a healthy 25 per cent - probably due to higher demand for continuing education, and hiring by institutions for the new academic year. Banking and finance/investment, normally a booming field, dipped in the second quarter by 0.06 per cent in the number of jobs advertised. However, the insurance industry is seeking more people in the second quarter than in the first quarter. Slowed hiring in the second quarter in industries such as advertising/PR/design, hotel/catering/restaurants and industrial/engineering, have been attributed to seasonal adjustment from the dynamic first quarter, when people were more willing to change jobs after receiving their annual bonuses, market watchers said. In terms of job function, accounting/finance/insurance, merchandising/purchasing, as well as administration/clerical/secretarial positions are on the rise compared with the first quarter. Looking ahead, recruitment experts are optimistic about the job market in the next six months. 'There will still be intense competition for talent throughout Asia for the rest of the year,' said Guy Day, regional managing director for recruitment group Ambition. 'The buoyant economy has led financial services companies in Hong Kong to expand. Employees are more willing to jump ship for more lucrative offers, forcing employers to find replacements.' Ambition recently released a report on mid-year recruitment market trends for the commerce and industry and banking and financial service sectors in Asia with findings from 50 decision makers from 50 companies. The report showed that, compared to the same period last year, base salaries had gone up by an average of 5 per cent for people who stayed in their jobs, while salaries had risen up to 20 per cent for those who switched jobs. In return, employers generally expected staff to assume a wider range of responsibilities, or to work longer hours. Mr Day said employers had to offer high salaries to attract talented people, which contributed to the rising cost of doing businesses in Hong Kong. Looking ahead, Mr Day warned that if the proposal to increase the maximum amount of monthly salary to which MPF applies was passed by the legislative council, it would further increase operating costs. He said Singapore had continued to be a strong competitor for Hong Kong in the war for talent. 'Senior executives with families are increasingly interested in moving to Singapore where the quality of life seems to be better as it offers cleaner air, better outdoor living and more residential space,' he said. 'Some financial institutions are relocating their regional head office and senior executives from Hong Kong to Singapore.' But Hong Kong still had advantages, such as a simple and low tax system, and career opportunities, he said. For employers, companies were still willing to hire local people because of their high quality of work and familiarity with the Hong Kong and mainland cultures. 'In the eyes of [Hong Kong property] developers, Hong Kong-trained staff are more reliable, competent and capable than their mainland, Macau or even Singaporean counterparts,' said Kenny Suen Wai-cheung, managing director of real estate broker Vigers Asia-Pacific. The property/real estate/security industry is one of the major providers of jobs. Mr Suen said the industry had a high demand for skilled labour, especially those with two to three years of postgraduate experience. 'Generally speaking, more and more professional people are needed in the Hong Kong market,' he said. 'There have been a lot of new construction projects since the outbreak of Sars in 2003. Therefore, there is an increasing demand for professionals such as architects, surveyors, project managers and property managers. 'Hong Kong has also become one of the most important IPO hubs. Private enterprises from the mainland have been queuing up to get listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. There's a big demand for valuation surveyors to do asset appraisal for these companies,' Mr Suen said. He believed the shortage of professionals in the industry was getting worse because of the booming property markets in the mainland and Macau. 'There is continuous construction of new hotels and luxury property projects, especially in Macau. Many of these are developed by Hong Kong developers. They are more comfortable with a Hong Kong team to work in the mainland and Macau,' Mr Suen said. As a company caught in the war for talent, Mr Suen said he had had to offer increases in salaries of up to 40 per cent to retain the right people. According to a survey conducted by employment services provider Manpower, job vacancies in the third quarter are expected to grow, albeit at a more modest rate. The survey covered 810 employers in Hong Kong and 52,000 employers worldwide to gauge hiring intentions for July to September. One in four employers in Hong Kong expect an increase in staffing levels for the third quarter, while the majority of employers do not expect to change their current number of staff, the survey found. Deborah Morgan, director of Manpower's Hong Kong operations, said: 'The results ... indicate a softer hiring pattern in the labour market for Hong Kong than in the previous quarter, which is reflected through most of the Asia-Pacific region. 'Nowhere is this more apparent than in the transportation and utilities sector, where employer hiring plans are considerably weaker than three months ago as well as last year at this time.'