The grass is greener in mainland China for Hong Kong workers

Author: Kate Whitehead | Date: 16 Mar 2016

Strong career progression and higher pay rises in fast-growing enterprises proving very attractive

Perceptions about Chinese organisations are changing. A decade ago most Hong Kong workers were reluctant to join a mainland firm, but now there is a growing awareness that these organisations have a good deal to offer in terms of career progression and remuneration.
 
With salary rises across the border more than double that of Hong Kong, it’s no surprise there has been a sea change in attitudes.
 
“In the past, people were hesitant to move to China, but nowadays it’s widely accepted that in certain roles you will be stationed in China or have to travel there regularly,” says Howard Chan, regional director at Michael Page International.
 
A recent survey by the recruitment company found that two-thirds of Hong Kong employees would consider joining a Chinese organisation, while five per cent said they would strongly consider it.
 
“Ten years ago most Chinese enterprises were state-owned, very China-focused and not as flexible. Now many have established a strong presence overseas and set up offices in Hong Kong. That means more jobs. The negative views people might have had before about working for a mainland firm are going,” says Chan, pointing to mainland success stories such as Tencent and Alibaba.
 
Mainland organisations make up 42 per cent of the total market capitalisation of the Hong Kong stock market, but the actual figure is much higher as businesspeople from the mainland control many Hong Kong-registered firms. Last year almost 80 per cent of funds raised from Chinese IPOs were by mainland organisations.
 
The fact that mainland firms are seen as fast-growing enterprises was the top reason (55 per cent) for considering joining one, according to the 2016 Michael Page Greater China Employee Intentions Report. This was followed by good remuneration (36 per cent) and stronger long-term career progression and promotion opportunities (35 per cent).
 
“The parity between Hong Kong and China salaries is becoming closer and closer. The RMB is still stronger than the Hong Kong dollar, so people get a higher premium to work in China,” says Chan.
 
According to the Michael Page report, the main reason for any lingering negative perception of mainland firms was a perceived poor focus on employee welfare and a poor brand image. But Chan says firms have been working hard to change these perceptions.
 
Also making the grass look a little greener across the border is the fact that annual pay rises in China are double that of Hong Kong this year. While Hong Kong workers can expect an average pay increase of between three and six per cent this year, those on the mainland are looking forward to six to 10 per cent, according to a recent study by Hays.
 
The survey by the recruitment firm – which interviewed more than 3,000 employers in Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia – found that 57 per cent of Hong Kong organisations planned to give modest pay rises of three to six per cent, while only 20 per cent were considering offering more than six per cent.