Expats working in Hong Kong have long found themselves in one of the more attractive destinations for moving abroad, at least as far as employment is concerned. Multinational companies abound, and the city-state's capitalist economy still opens up opportunities for ambitious foreign nationals.
However, job openings in Hong Kong are not as plentiful as they once were, and expats keen on working in the Fragrant Harbour will have to face tough competition from locals and fellow expats alike.
Those who manage to land a job in Hong Kong are usually highly skilled workers in the fields of banking and finance. There are also some opportunities for teaching English and volunteer work. Degrees from American and British universities are highly respected by the local population, and working in Hong Kong is generally thought to be a positive career move.
That said, immigration procedures can be fairly tedious. To get a work permit, expats will need to find an employer sponsor, meaning that they'll need a solid job offer beforehand. The Immigration Department also needs proof that the applicant will contribute to the Hong Kong economy in a way that a local could not.
Expats accepting a job in Hong Kong should do their research before negotiating a contract and be sure 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. There are opportunities for expats with experience in digital advertising, HR and the legal sphere, while investment banks, in particular, continue to entice many abroad, although lucrative expat packages are becoming increasingly rare aside from those employed in senior positions.
Having some knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin will help expat job applicants, but there are some industries that don’t require a Chinese language. This is especially true for international corporations.
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 is an assortment of avenues that can lead to a good job. There are many recruitment companies, and online job portals are also in no short supply. Companies also tend to advertise positions directly on their websites. By consulting a few targeted organisations regularly, opportunities for application can be found.
Work culture in Hong Kong
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 around or even above 50 hours. The “work hard, play hard” ethos is a hallmark of Hong Kong.
It is also important to be aware of the finer intricacies of doing business in Hong Kong. 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.
►For info on what you can expect to earn, see Expat Salaries in Hong Kong
"Work hours in Hong Kong are generally longer and it is simply expected you do more. It is also common practice to work a half-day on Saturday as part of your regular workweek, which is unheard of in the US." American expat Leslie talks about working life in Hong Kong in her expat experiences interview.
Are you an expat living in Hong Kong?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Hong Kong. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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