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Pay expectations on the rise

Published on Friday, 13 Jul 2012
Economic problems and a lack of jobs in Europe and the US are affecting local staff headcounts.
Photo: Bloomberg
Sommer Owens
Tony Pownall
Louisa Yeung
Ian Strutton

While the euro zone continues to grapple with crisis after crisis and economies struggle elsewhere, Hong Kong is expressing due caution about prospects for the second half of the year and highlighting market uncertainties.

That is understandable and, perhaps, avoids tempting fate. Overall, though, the main indicators – unemployment at 3.2 per cent, moderate wage inflation, new jobs being created – point to a healthy outlook.

Clear evidence of this is seen in the Classified Post’s latest “Pay and Job Mobility Survey”. The results are based on online feedback from respondents working in Hong Kong, with varying levels of education and experience.

Significantly, close to 57 per cent of replies stated an intention to change jobs in the next six months, while 83 per cent of respondents expect a salary increment of up to 10 per cent in the next fiscal year. This shows optimism tempered by realism. It reflects, too, that the job market is still employer-driven.

“Employers are setting high expectations and standards,” says Louisa Yeung, managing director of Michael Page International. In general, good candidates are not rushing into moves or  arriving at interviews with lists of demands. Many tread cautiously, knowing the hazards of “last in, first out”.

“This makes for a much healthier market,” Yeung says. “Good candidates are looking for stable companies which offer less tangible things like broader experience and China exposure.”

Sommer Owens, associate director of Robert Walters Hong Kong, also notes a conservative mood in the market.

“Hiring constraints in Asia often derive from policy or strategies decided in other regions which then filter down,” she says.

Taken at face value, the banking and finance sector might not look so bright. However, it is far from being all doom and gloom.

“Banks lose headcount, but jobs move to another industry,” Owens says. “That is the nature of banking – it is always trimming and reshaping, but a lot of people pick up contract work and stay within the sector.”

For Tony Pownall, general manager of Hudson, there are signs that some candidates need to adjust to current market realities.

“Managing expectations is usually half the job when we recruit for clients, but it is even more now,” Pownall says. “There are jobs available, but employers can’t afford to take a risk and get it wrong.”

Ian Strutton, director of Experis Hong Kong, sees reason for optimism in the increasing demand for sales professionals, HR managers and mid- to senior-level IT specialists.

Recruitment for such positions indicates underlying confidence. “Companies have their expansion and hiring plans, but are proceeding with caution,” Strutton says.

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