Most Hong Kong executives view GBA cities as attractive places to work, KPMG survey finds, with job prospects brightest in technology and financial sectors

GBA cities as attractive places to work, KPMG survey

Nearly three in four C-level or HR respondents plan to expand or maintain existing headcount, while 71% of all respondents expect salary increase of 20 percent or more when changing jobs


KPMG today released its third annual Hong Kong Employment Trends Survey and Salary Outlook showing that global economic uncertainty is having a limited impact on the city’s employment market, which is buoyed by the development of the Greater Bay Area, government incentives for innovation and technology and the completion of key infrastructure projects.

  • 72% of respondents working in C-level positions or in human resources said they planned to increase (35%) or maintain (37%) existing headcount
  • 37% in financial services and 45% in innovation and technology said they would increase headcount, although the figure last year was higher (46%) for financial services

Felix Lee, Head of KPMG Executive Search and Recruitment Services, says: “The dip in prospective headcount increases in the financial services sector may relate to accelerating digital transformation and the application of artificial intelligence in engaging customers and dealing with risk management.”

Opportunities abound in the Greater Bay Area (GBA)

  • 53% of respondents said they would consider working in other GBA cities, with Shenzhen, Macau and Guangzhou being the top three choices
  • The top four considerations for respondents to work in these three cities were higher pay (58%), better career and industry prospects (56%), broader work exposure (54%) and travel convenience (52%)
  • The top four industries in which respondents thought the GBA development would create more jobs were innovation and technology (46%), financial services (36%), professional services (31%) and trade and logistics (29%)

“The GBA is well-positioned to become a major economy and mega-metropolis which will create significant opportunities for businesses across all sectors in particular in finance, trade and professional services, for which Hong Kong is renowned,” Lee adds. “The free flow of talent should improve existing synergies and create greater opportunities.”

Recent KPMG analysis found tax incentives to be instrumental in facilitating the free movement of people within the GBA, especially for high-income individuals working within the region. In early 2019 various exemptions from China’s new personal income tax were introduced, allaying Hong Kong residents’ concerns over a reduction in post-tax income when working on the mainland.

Start-ups appeal, but with caution

  • Overall the most attractive sectors in which to join a start-up were financial technology (47%) and e-commerce (33%), but respondents at C-level appear much more risk-averse than those working at other levels
  • Respondents at C-level were more likely to opt for organisations in the charity/social wellbeing or healthcare and life sciences sectors
  • The most attractive factors for working in a start-up were a company’s growth potential (56%) and earning potential (38%), while for C-level respondents the top reason was job satisfaction
  • The most common deterrent by far to working in a start-up was ‘uncertain business prospects and sustainability’

“A number of initiatives by the Hong Kong government should go some way to alleviating concerns people have in establishing or joining a start-up,” Lee says. “And beyond Hong Kong, the GBA is an ideal stepping stone for these businesses to expand across the region.”

Recruitment and salary outlook in Hong Kong

Talent retention

  • Overall, salary and compensation (68%) was by far the top incentive when looking for a new job, followed by career progression and promotion (53%) and work flexibility and work-life balance (35%)
  • For those in Assistant Manager positions or below, ‘workload and work pressure’ came above ‘work flexibility and work-life balance’ as a reason to seek a new job

Michelle Hui, Director, KPMG Executive Search and Recruitment Services, says: “Remuneration factors have remained as a top motivator, however it is interesting to see that work flexibility and work-life balance are almost as important as career progression and promotion for most employees. This is something employers can emphasise more and an area where they can be more creative.”

Talent attraction

  • The three most important non-monetary reasons that would attract a job seeker to a company were job satisfaction (60%), career progression and promotion (59%) and work flexibility and work-life balance (56%)
  • Respondents at C-level (73%) and department heads (66%) rated job satisfaction as the most significant non-monetary factor when considering new opportunities
  • For those at Senior Manager or Manager level, the biggest driver was career progression and promotion (67%), and for those at Assistant Manager or below it was work flexibility and work-life balance (57%), although very closely followed by career progression and promotion

“A better understanding of these drivers will help employers allocate resources more effectively and generate a more appealing value proposition to employees at different stages of their career,” Hui adds.

Salary expectations

  • Nearly 71% of respondents expect 20% or more increase in salary when moving jobs, while 25% expect a 30% jump in salary
  • Although 32% of C-level respondents expect 30% or more increase, 25% said they would accept a similar compensation or consider a reduction in pay when making a career move

“The significant gap in salary expectations among the C-level executives could reflect the varying growth prospects for different sectors in Hong Kong,” Hui says.


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