Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Construction leads the pack as sentiment builds

With few industry sectors immune to the ebbs and flows of market fluctuations, Hong Kong employers generally hold an optimistic view towards third-quarter hiring. 

According to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey Hong Kong for Q3 2013, hiring intentions are 2 percentage points higher compared to the previous quarter – allowing for seasonal variations – but fall 1 percentage point year on year.

The mining and construction sector and the professional services sector are forecast to provide the strongest labour markets, with both posting a “net employment outlook” – the percentage of employers anticipating total employment to increase in Q3 over Q2 minus those who expect a decrease – of 15 per cent.

Meanwhile, a net employment outlook in the wholesale and retail trade sector of 9 per cent is 4 percentage points lower that Q2 and 9 percentage points lower than a year ago.

Ian Strutton, director of Experis Hong Kong, the professional talent resourcing arm of the ManpowerGroup, says that mining remains a low-level employment field in Hong Kong, though as the Hong Kong Stock Exchange seeks to entice mining companies to list in Hong Kong, demand is rising for mining engineers, geologists and people with mining qualifications to work on the mainland.

On the other hand, demand for construction professionals is booming. Strutton says major infrastructure projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the Kai Tak Development plan continue to stimulate hiring activities in the construction sector.

“Currently, and we see this trend continuing into the future, finding engineers in Hong Kong and Greater China to work in the construction industry is a considerable challenge,” Strutton says. He adds that many engineering companies have positions permanently open and struggle to maintain their desired headcount.

Mark Raiss, URS managing director for Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, holds a similar view. “It is no surprise that there is sustained heavy demand for consulting engineers in Hong Kong,” he says, explaining that new MTR lines, performance venues, sports facilities and housing, as well as improved environmental controls and waste disposal systems, are all driving the demand for talented engineers.

With the government’s 10 major infrastructure projects in full swing, the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) has reported a 39 per cent increase in membership since 2008, to more than 30,000. At the same time, intake for the HKIE’s Graduate Scheme “A” Training has grown by more than 40 per cent.

“The acceleration of government-housing development plans over recent years has created an acute need for talent in a variety of engineering disciplines to meet soaring demand,” Professor Choy Kin-kuen, president of the HKIE, told members at its annual diner in April.

In the technology-services sector, Experis notes strong demand for IT systems engineers and sales professionals. The government’s push to establish Hong Kong as a data hub is also creating a demand for cloud-computing specialists and IT professionals.

Gerard Finlay, managing partner of Experis Legal Futures, is seeing a rise in the number of employers looking for legal professionals with specialist knowledge.

“Employers are seeking legal professionals with the skills and experience to work with consultants and stand out in their specialist areas,” he says. He adds that hot areas include the construction and infrastructure industries, hotel developments, and employers involved with regulatory and contentious legal process.

According to Denise Lim, managing partner of Experis Finance, the continuing fallout from the 2008 financial crisis and ongoing tightening of local and international regulations is generating robust demand for risk and compliance professionals.

“There is a significant gap between the demand and supply of suitable job candidates,” Lim says, adding that she has seen headcount in some risk and compliance departments increase fivefold over the last 10 years.

She also notes a demand for professionals with anti-fraud and anti-money-laundering qualifications and experience. “These are certainly hot requirement areas and we see a lot of accountants studying for certification to expand their career opportunities,” she says.

While the survey’s statistics for wholesale and retail trade remain steady, with support rendered by mainland tourist spending and local consumption, job creation is slightly weakened compared to both last quarter and the same time last year.

Manpower believes that while high retail rents add to retailers’ operating burdens, a flurry of hiring activity last year by major international retailers could account for a slight slowdown of recruitment activity. “Last year we saw large retailers open new stores and hire hundreds of staff,” Strutton says, adding that Hong Kong’s retail sector remains vibrant and offers a wide range of attractive career opportunities.