Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Hong Kong still attracting expats as talent mobility remains high

With talent mobility seen as one measure of economic strength, Hong Kong can take heart from its continuing status as a city where high-quality people from around the world want to work.

"The opportunities for personal and professional growth are a key draw," says Doug Edmonds, Asia- Pacific regional director for Randstad Sourceright. "Hong Kong is seen as very welcoming and an easy stepping stone to getting into the China market and other countries in Asia.

"And, of course, a tax regime which puts individuals in a much better financial situation than in, say, London or New York, is a big component in any decision."

This, Edmonds notes, creates an obvious "pull factor" - not just for people in the financial services sector keen to do a stint in a recognised global centre, but also for those in other industries who are prepared to take a sideways career step to gain broader experience and new insights by working in Asia.

Indeed, a recent Randstad survey - which began as a specific study for a client in accounting and finance before branching out - found that demand for overseas talent in both traditional roles and faster-growing areas shows no sign of slowing.

In this respect, life sciences and IT services stand out, according to the survey. The need for engineers with international experience is also steady, particularly to support new infrastructure projects taking shape in Southern China.

Incoming risk managers and forensic accountants can often pick and choose between several good offers. In addition, the peripheral services that cluster around the banking and finance sector, such as recruitment agencies, financial journalism and legal firms, also continue to attract qualified individuals from elsewhere in Asia and further afield.

"Overall, the Hong Kong environment is highly skilled, with a lot of demand for people in technical roles," Edmonds says. "But there is also a need to bring in more esoteric leadership skills. In part, this is because there is an abundance of graduates from universities in Hong Kong and China who need expert leadership [from middle-management level or above] to apply what they have learned in practical ways or as the market requires.

"For employers, the key there is to have good technical people who can give direction and put their general know-how to best use."

Of course, talent mobility also means that people keep moving on from Hong Kong. Sometimes, that is simply for job-related reasons such as a promotion, retirement or completion of a time-defined contract. It is well documented that it can also be down to the city's air pollution, inadequate number of international school places, or just general difficulties with settling in and adjusting.

"In most cases, we see that the opportunities will outweigh the negatives, if the job and salary package tick all the boxes in other ways," Edmonds says. "Hong Kong is a 'work' city and the cost of living keeps increasing, but these days there is much more openness around the challenges and quality of life in different cities.

"We also see more Hong Kong people going into international roles, with a two-way flow of expats, as organisations become more open to moving people from Asia."