As we move into 2019 when economic growth is expected to moderate, companies will likely take a more conservative approach towards employment. However, Asian and local companies are expected to move ahead at a steady pace, thanks to strong domestic consumption.
The ongoing US-China trade conflict is likely to have an impact on market interest rates as well as taxes on US goods and services in Hong Kong SAR. In addition, the global market is still grappling with the uncertain outcomes from the impending Brexit and the volatility of the stock market in response to these events.
Despite these events, businesses and workers appear to be more prepared for the market change this time as well.
Hong Kong SAR’s unemployment rate remained below the 3% mark over the course of 2018 – a record low in more than 20 years. Many people took the opportunity to switch employers to benefit from the higher than expected salary increment, with the unemployed even choosing to return to work to earn income. Economists and government bodies have also forecasted the market to grow between 3% and 4% in 2019, a positive growth trajectory that is welcomed by local businesses.
We saw new forward-looking policies aimed at building the local workforce capabilities to improve Hong Kong SAR’s ability to stay agile and competitive in the long term. For instance, recent updates to the China and Hong Kong SAR employment laws provide residents with the flexibility to work across China, Taiwan, Hong Kong SAR and Macao, opening more doors for our local talent. In view of the ongoing global trade conflict, local companies are also expected to focus more on in-bound developments such as the Belt-and-Road Initiative and Greater Bay Area - which will provide more job opportunities to the Hong Kong SAR working population.
build a future-ready workforce
The ‘Smart City Blueprint’ that was first introduced in 2017 aims to enhance efficacy in city management and improve the overall quality of life through the use of innovation and technology. Through new innovations and emerging technologies, businesses can operate at optimal efficiency and improve workforce productivity. In the long-run, companies can benefit from cost-savings and redirect their resources to deliver more value to their customers.
Already seen to be lagging behind its neighbouring markets, Hong Kong SAR has plenty to catch up on when it comes to open innovation and digital integration. Given Hong Kong SAR’s ambition to become a Smart City, the local talent will need to further develop their skills and deepen their capabilities to take on new demands. New and in-demand roles that are key to driving this transformation agenda can be found in asset management, fintech, data analytics and cybersecurity.
However, the effort to upskill the workforce should be shared across individuals, employers and the government. While it is essential for candidates to evaluate their own skills to identify areas of improvement, companies will need to support the employees’ development by providing them with relevant training programmes and resources. Leading by example, the Hong Kong SAR government is also investing resources to groom local talent to become the next generation of leaders.
2019 employment outlook in hong kong SAR
Despite market scepticism, some sectors will likely continue to expand in 2019. We expect to see continuous work volume within the construction space with the bridging Hong Kong SAR-China relationship.
The insurance and fintech sectors will also see higher growth this year as a result of additional investments from businesses and high-net-worth accounts who are looking to invest more to protect their assets. Even though banks and financial institutions may take a more conservative approach in their hiring strategies, we foresee a strong demand for professional services talent to support the burgeoning startup scene.
The average salary increase for professionals looking to change jobs will be around 10%, which although lower than the average in 2018, is still considered competitive compared to some of the western markets. In key growth sectors such as technology and fintech, candidates who have specialised skills and in-depth technical knowledge of a key subject matter can negotiate for a higher salary increment of up to 30%.
Job seekers are urged to learn new skills that complement the digital environment, such as having strong commercial acumen and good communication skills. Language has also become a critical component of the hiring process, with more companies looking to recruit candidates fluent in English and Mandarin to assist in cross-border negotiations with mainland China.
a bigger focus on fostering a collaborative culture
Moving into 2019, we hope to see more employers introduce new policies that are aimed at attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce, which makes up a large proportion of their workforce.
The future leaders of today seek different priorities - they want an employer that invests in a conducive office environment, cool digital tools and an office culture that helps them advance in their careers. For instance, companies that are moving their IT infrastructure to cloud and have decentralised co-working spaces that give people the option to work outside the office, will be highly sought-after.
Companies looking to build a sustainable and compelling employer brand should look into diversity and inclusion initiatives, and offer various opportunities for their people to give back to society through the work that they are doing. We would also encourage employers to foster a culture that promotes a positive employee experience as a key retention strategy.