People attend an an online job fair under the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme. About 20 organisations set up booths and conducted on-the-spot recruitment at MacPherson Stadium in Mong Kok on March 23. Photo: K.Y. Cheng
Bernard Chan
Bernard Chan

Greater Bay Area: Hong Kong’s youth should grab the help and opportunities on offer

  • Young people have been offered a choice of employment schemes and mentorship programmes – they ignore the potential of the Greater Bay Area at their own peril
With a gross domestic product equivalent to that of South Korea, a region of over 72 million people, and a GDP per capita nearly twice that of the Chinese mainland, the Greater Bay Area affords tremendous opportunities to those willing to take advantage of them. The cluster of cities is made up of Hong Kong, Macau and nine others in Guangdong province, including Zhuhai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Entrepreneurs and investors are salivating over this extraordinary gem of an opportunity.
Hong Kong is the most internationalised city in the Greater Bay Area with distinctive strengths, such as an open economy, independent rule of law, and being an international financial centre; we are uniquely positioned to reap the benefits of the Greater Bay Area’s immense market potential. However, that would require understanding the cross-border opportunities and capitalising on them.
Most of the businesspeople and expatriates I speak to are enthusiastic about the possibilities, with some saying the Greater Bay Area is why they are based in Hong Kong. Conversely, most of the young people I speak to about the Greater Bay Area are less than convinced due to a variety of factors, from a lack of understanding, a fear of being uncompetitive, a lack of know-how and knowledge, and a lack of trust.
Some businesses and business leaders scarred by young people’s indifference and the 2019 protests have given up on them, labelling them the “ lost generation”. These employers would rather hire mainlanders because they understand the Greater Bay Area better, have language skills and a “fire in the belly” that seems absent from many young Hongkongers. Yet how can we turn a blind eye to an entire generation?

I always tell young people that it is not necessary to be based on the mainland to harness the Greater Bay Area’s potential, though ignore the 72 million consumers at your peril, as they may well shape trends and drive demand in the coming years. One can choose whether to participate in the so-called onshore market of the mainland or the offshore financial and logistics activities of Hong Kong.


Hong Kong can't miss Greater Bay Area boat in post-Covid-19 recovery, Victor Fung of Fung Group says

Hong Kong can't miss Greater Bay Area boat in post-Covid-19 recovery, Victor Fung of Fung Group says

There are numerous government, business and NGO schemes that aim to provide a helping hand to young people interested in engaging with the Greater Bay Area.

To enhance young people’s understanding of the Greater Bay Area and its prospects, the Hong Kong government has launched the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme, which subsidises enterprises to recruit 2,000 local university graduates to work in the mainland cities of the Greater Bay Area. The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau has also collaborated with 13 international chambers of commerce to provide job placements under the Future International Talent scheme.
Also pitching in to bridge the gap between the business world and students is the Melo Program, a new initiative which pairs leading CEOs with university students willing to learn and collaborate. Through an experiential programme and mentorship, both groups acquire new knowledge and insights.
Another excellent resource is Alibaba Group, owner of the South China Morning Post. Alibaba has a HK$1 billion (US$129 million) Entrepreneurs Fund to help Hong Kong entrepreneurs and young people launch and grow their start-ups. Mentors from diverse businesses such as HSBC, Hutchison Telecommunications Holdings and CLP Group help to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among young people.

Greater Bay Area offers a much larger playing field for Hong Kong’s young talent

There are a multitude of mentoring programmes that young people can take advantage of, from The Women’s Foundation and the Urban Land Institute, for those interested in the real estate industry, to the “Distinguished Master, Accomplished Students” scheme for budding scientists and engineers, to name but a few.

All of these pro bono mentorship schemes are geared towards matching students or young professionals with successful senior leaders in the field to provide career and business development advice with the goal of nurturing the city’s next generation of talent.


Whether to learn new skills, gain experience, seek professional advice or forge relationships within the business community, I highly encourage our youth to take advantage of the resources and possibilities in front of them.

Young people need to understand the new market trends and demand, which inevitably involves the Greater Bay Area, or they run the risk of becoming marginalised and missing out on a huge opportunity. As management guru Peter Drucker said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Which future will you create for yourself?

Bernard Chan is convenor of Hong Kong’s Executive Council