Working in Hong Kong
Although its return to Chinese sovereignty over a decade ago led to more jobs being localised, with mainland Chinese allowed to work in the region as well, there are still opportunities for expatriates. This is especially true for expats working in banking and finance, highly skilled expats, those who wish to teach English in Hong Kong and volunteers. Degrees from American and British universities are also still highly respected by the local population, and working in the Fragrant Harbour is generally thought to be a positive career move.
According to the 2012 HSBC Expat Explorer report, in fact, 70 percent of expats move there for job opportunities, and 73 percent report that they earn more money after moving to Hong Kong. As many as 55 percent of expats earn more than 150,000 USD a year, and 90 percent of expats are positive about the state of the Hong Kong economy.
That said, it’s important to recognise that the cost of living in Hong Kong is extremely high. Accommodation in Hong Kong is consistently recognised as being among the most expensive in the world, while the vast majority of expats pay more for healthcare in Hong Kong than they did at home. Education, for those with kids, is also costly but the region is ranked by HSBC as the safest place in the world for raising children.
Immigration procedures are also fairly tedious. To get a work permit, expats will need to find an employer sponsor, meaning that they'll need a solid a job offer beforehand. The Immigration Department also needs to be convinced that the applicant will contribute to the Hong Kong economy in a way that a local could not.
It is clear then, that expats accepting a job in Hong Kong should do their research before negotiating a contract, in order to secure a high enough salary to support themselves and their family.
Job market in Hong Kong
While most expats still work in the financial sector, more are being employed in other, developing areas of business such as management and IT. With one of the largest concentrations of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region, however, there's plenty of space for expats to find a niche.
Having some knowledge of Mandarin or Cantonese will be beneficial to expat job applicants, but there are industries which often don’t require a Chinese language. This is especially true for transnational companies. Expats from industries in which skills are in short supply such as IT, digital advertising, HR and the legal sphere will also have an added advantage. Investment banks, in particular, continue to entice many abroad, although lucrative expat packages are becoming increasingly rare aside from those employed to senior positions.
That said, however, since people from mainland China are able to compete for jobs that previously enticed mostly Western expats, language skills have continued to become more important, especially if new arrivals want to successfully integrate into local society.
Westerners working in Hong Kong will probably experience some degree of culture shock. For starters, the working week is much longer than they may be used to – it isn't unusual for this to run above 50 hours. The “work hard, play hard” ethos is a hallmark of the Chinese special administrative region.
It is also important to be aware of the finer intricacies of doing business. For example, giving and receiving business cards with both hands is important and bosses should always foot the bill for their staff during social occasions.
Finding a job in Hong Kong
Many expats move to Hong Kong with a job contract already in place. The largest and most reputable companies tend to headhunt employees, and lure them abroad with high salaries and the promise of luxury living.
That said, even for those who aren't one of the lucky international candidates to be recruited in advance, there’s an assortment of avenues that can lead to a well-landed job. There are many recruitment companies, and online job portals are also in no short supply. The Standard, the Hong Kong's largest English newspaper, also has a designated careers section. Finally, companies tend to advertise positions directly on their websites. By consulting a few targeted organisations regularly, opportunities for application won't be too difficult to find.