Cody Szeto is director of the IT&T, engineering, supply chain and procurement divisions at Kelly Services Hong Kong.
The pros and cons of a career move to Beijing
My work has offered me a promotion and a much higher salary if I move to Beijing. This would mean relocating my family, including my wife, who has a career in Hong Kong, and my two daughters, who are at school. I think it would be a good career move, for me, but my wife is reluctant to go, especially in light of the chronic air pollution in Beijing. My argument is that my new salary would exceed our combined salaries and we could move on after a few years. Is it worth the disruption, or am I just being selfish?
You need to ask yourself whether your role there is related to a quick-fix or whether it meets a growing demand of the industry, and whether experience gained there will be recognised or beneficial after you return.
For your financial rewards to be worth the move, I suggest you look at a few things in detail.
An expat package should also cover tax, housing, education and transport. The tax in Beijing can easily hit 40 per cent plus, depending on your salary bracket. Hence, you need to enquire whether you are entitled to tax equalisation, whereby you pay the same tax as you were in Hong Kong and your company takes care of the difference.
International school fees in Beijing are around 100,000 to 150,000 yuan per year. Sizeable companies have debenture relationships with selected schools, and your children’s chances of getting in would be much larger if your company has this arrangement.
For senior level hires, most expat packages would include a “lease to own” car and a driver. For example, a locally made foreign automotive and a driver will cost a minimum of 7,000 yuan per month. An imported car will cost more.
You should consider the move if your new disposable household income – after deducting the above expenses – is, say, 50 per cent more than your current one.
Other factors money cannot buy, such as your family emotions, air quality, food safety, and security are issues you may need to consider thereafter.
Some companies may offer the spouse of their senior staff complimentary career consultation and job search service.
If you still want to consider the move, you can try relocating by yourself for the first year and negotiate a budget for you to fly back to Hong Kong on weekends, or for your family to fly up to Beijing during school holidays.
This may buy you more time to experience Beijing, and decide on whether it is the right place for you – and more importantly, your family.