Hong Kong Job Market Update – H1 2023

Hong Kong Job Market Sees Opportunities Surging in H1 – Links International’s 2023 H1 Hong Kong Job Market Updates

Links’ Hong Kong Job Market updates provide data-based analysis of the Hong Kong job market based on a number of data sources including Hong Kong Labour Department statistics, HK job posting numbers and response rates in respect of a ‘basket’ of common commercial job types in Hong Kong, as well as Links’ own data and market research. Below are our findings:

Slow Start to 2023, But The Momentum Has Picked Up

On the whole, 2023 started off stronger than previous years – with a hike in vacancies that started in January. This increase was due to various factors such as the borders fully opening at the start of the year and Hong Kong emerging strong from the pandemic.

Even though the numbers slightly dipped in May 2023, it is worth remembering that the figures are still much higher than pre-Covid numbers.

READ NOW: Hong Kong Job Market Update – Q4 2022

While the effects of this carried on to January 2023, by February and March, the number of job listings visibly increased. From April onwards, the numbers dropped slightly, but remained steady across most functions. While IT (Information Technology) saw an increase, all other job functions only saw minimal decreases.

The slight decline in job openings that were evident from May 2023 onwards meant that the job market rebound was as not as strong as what people are hoping for, and this could be attributed to a few reasons:

  • the property market and stock market are still undergoing challenges
  • interest rates in most banks went up in May, and this decreased consumer power as people spent less. Banks began increasing their rates when the Hong Kong Monetary Authority lifted its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points in that month, following the US Federal Reserve. 
Source: Links International

In Q2 of 2023, job vacancies in Hong Kong increased to 34,125 full-time openings, with jobs in retail, hotel and tourism jobs standing out the most. From February to April, the Labour Department recorded a monthly average of 106,577 openings in the private sector, a 75% YoY.

However, it should be noted that back-office functions have not bounced back quickly, as many of these are not directly impacted by the reopening of borders.

Competitive Year for Human Resources, Administration & Business Support

For Human Resources, Administration & Business Support, 2023 started as a competitive year for candidates, and hiring was ramped up in February and March as companies were on the lookout for outstanding talent in the field. By April, hiring slowed down as companies had sought out the manpower that was needed.

As mentioned on Links’ 2023 Salary Guide, companies are less likely to take a risk with candidates who can fulfil the role but do not carry prior experience.

Sales Boosted by Hong Kong’s Surge in Visitors

The sharp increase in jobs in Sales from January 2023 can be explained by the influx of tourists that came into Hong Kong starting from that same month. Reuters reported that looking at the numbers in that month alone:

  • retail sales was the highest it had been since April 2022.
  • tourist arrivals had increased by 70 times compared to January 2022, as reported by Reuters.
  • the sales of watches, clocks, jewellery, and other valuable gifts showed a strong jump of 23.1 % compared to January 2022, also as reported by Reuters.
  • clothing, footwear, and accessories on the other hand grew 14.7% compared to January 2022.

READ NOW: 2023 Hong Kong Salary Guide & Market Insights

By March 2023, the Hong Kong International Airport welcomed more than 2 million visitors – for the first time since January 2020, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Hong Kong’s many initiatives in bringing in more tourists have also had a huge role to play in the increase in Sales vacancies. Some of these initiatives were announced late 2022/early 2023, such as:

  • 500,000 free air tickets to and from Hong Kong through the Hello Hong Kong Campaign
  • the Travel Agents Incentive Scheme
  • one million vouchers worth around HK$12 for discounts on food, drinks, transport, hotels, retail, and attractions
  • hosting the HK Sevens 2023 that had 23,000 attendees on the first day alone
  • another round of consumption vouchers which have been handed out to encourage spending

Demand for Accounting & Finance Staff as HK Reclaims its Financial Hub Status

Hong Kong has undertaken several measures to mark its spot as a leader in the finance arena, and many of these initiatives were apparent in the first few months of 2023. For instance, Hong Kong hosted the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) meeting and the HKMA-BIS Joint Conference – the first major international financial event in over 3 years. It had also vowed to turn into a green finance hub, adding that the government is on the lookout for more talent in the field.

Another remarkable event is that Hong Kong passed a new crypto legislation in June 2023 – allowing for the trading of retail crypto. With this new law, cryptocurrency exchanges are now mandated to obtain a license from the Securities & Futures Commission of Hong Kong to trade and market to consumers. This is a huge step is turning Hong Kong into a crypto hub, given that for the last 5 years, crypto trading in Chinese territories was only open to institutional investors and other professionals.

The private sector is also eyeing outstanding talent in finance. In February of 2023, major bank Standard Chartered said they will hire 300 to 500 additional staff in Hong Kong in 2023 – amounting to a headcount increase of 9%. Its goal will be to tap the growth in loan and wealth management demand for the year.

While some financial institutions are ramping up hiring, others are cutting down on staff. For example, UBS has laid off a number of Credit Suisse staff after merging with them – however this also means that there is a good amount of top talent in the market that are waiting to be hired.

Unemployment & Underemployment Rates Fall For the 12th and 11th Consecutive Times

In an article from June 2023, Bloomberg stated that ‘Hong Kong’s economy was improving’, as unemployment rates continued to fall since April 2022.  

Data source: Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong

The same can be said of underemployment, as more opportunities crop up for jobseekers – allowing them to seek jobs that are more matched to their qualifications and skillset.

Data source: Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong

Several initiatives have had a part to play in this, namely Hong Kong’s Top Talent Pass Scheme which has been able to bring in talent from top universities around the world into Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has also held recruitment drives in other countries – in April-May 2023, where it offered several specialist doctor and nurse roles to professionals from the UK and Guangdong, China. Many of these healthcare providers were hired to work in Hong Kong’s public hospitals.

From 18 March to 1 May 2023, Hong Kong hosted the Hong Kong I&T Career Expo – where over 70% of companies participating were open to hiring overseas talent. What stood out even more about this event is that it was a virtual career fair – allowing jobseekers from all over the world to look for opportunities.

HK Government Offers Second Instalment of Consumption Vouchers

Hong Kong started giving out a few rounds of consumption vouchers to its residents during the global pandemic to encourage spending and boost the economy. The government decided to hand out the same vouchers again in 2023 – and the amounts are as follows:

  • for Hong Kong permanent residents and new arrivals aged 18 and above who are eligible: the first set amounting to HK$3,000 was distributed in April, and the balance of HK$2,000 is to be distributed in July.
  • for those who live in Hong Kong through other admission schemes for talents, professionals, entrepreneurs and students – the total amount will be HK$2,500.

While this will give consumers more purchasing power, it will also influence job functions such as Sales and Marketing that are most directly impacted by retail spending. However, even digital finance will also see the effects of these vouchers, as they are sent to consumers’ e-wallets.

In May, WeChat Pay HK announced that it will offer a HK$50 electronic voucher to new users or those who switch payment platforms. Major banks such as HSBC and Bank of China (Hong Kong) have also been pushing for more digital payment services to better support cross-border transactions – signalling a greater demand for digital banking jobs.

To sum up, the Hong Kong job market is still on the path to full recovery – and there have been promising signs that it is on the right track. For employers, it is important to note that as the job market gets more competitive, finding talent that is the right fit may be a challenge – especially if hiring managers are on the lookout for the top 10%-15% of the talent pool.

Similarly, candidates would also have to compete harder to find an organisation that is right for them at this point – meaning that they would have to work even closely with recruiters to get good placements.

On that note, employers and candidates could partner with a recruitment agency to find the talent/organisation best-suited them, especially because:  

  • Recruitment agencies specialise in the hiring process and possess extensive knowledge of the job market and specific industries.
  • They can provide valuable insights into current trends, skill requirements, and salary expectations, helping both job seekers and employers make informed decisions
  • Recruitment agencies have an extensive network of contacts for both job seekers and employers. They also would have a pool of pre-screened candidates with various skill sets and experience levels.
  • Recruitment agencies conducting initial screenings, interviews, and assessments, allowing employers to focus on their core business activities. By outsourcing recruitment tasks, employers can save time and costs on background checks, and other expenses associated with the hiring process.
  • Recruitment agencies can quickly adapt to changing staffing needs, providing temporary, contract, or permanent placements based on the specific requirements of the employer. This flexibility and scalability allows businesses to respond efficiently to market fluctuations and seasonal demands.

With over 20 years of being a leading recruitment agency in Asia, Links can help companies find the right people to drive their organisation, and place candidates in their most-suited jobs. Contact us to learn about our recruitment services as we’d love to help you, and we’ll be in touch!

If you’re looking to stay up to date with the latest labour laws in APAC in 2023, our latest publication, the 2023 Mid-Year Asia-Pacific Labour Law Comparison Chart is a must-have for you! Stay updated on the latest developments in the region at a glance! We cover 17 locations in this comparison including key markets like Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Japan, and more. Download your copy here.

Want more information and updates on the job market? Get in touch with us and check out our blog to learn more! You can also read our previous Hong Kong job indexes here.

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