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Hong Kong employers appear to hold a more optimistic view of the near future than most of their peers in the Asia Pacific Region. Apart from the mainland, a higher percentage of employers in Hong Kong have recruitment plans than in any other Asian market. The findings appear in Hudson’s quarterly report on hiring expectations. Still, only slightly more than 20 percent of employers are optimistic about the economy.
The employment service consultant interviewed 432 Hong Kong employers in June and found that nearly 37.7 percent of them forecast employee growth over the next three months, down 3.2 percent from the previous quarter. The figure is higher than Singapore (34.7 percent) and Australia (29.6 percent).
IT&T continues to be the most positive sector with nearly half of employers planning to expand their workforce, followed by the consumer sector (42.9 percent) and banking and financial services (36.7 percent), according to the survey.
“The retail market in Hong Kong continues to be buoyant, obviously fueled by mainland visitors,” said Tong Pownall, general manager from Hudson Hong Kong.
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Alexa Chow, managing director of Centaline Human Resources Consultants Limited, said she didn’t see the banking sector hiring in the third quarter, given the gloomy economy worldwide. Some investment banks are even rumored to be planning staff layoffs soon. Chow said tourism and related sectors such as retail and catering will remain robust while exports and manufacturing will drop in the next quarter.
Plagued by the euro zone crisis and economic uncertainty in the US, almost three quarters of local employers said they felt “cautious” or “uncertain” about the Hong Kong economy, while 6.5 percent even said they were “pessimistic”.
The negative perceptions contribute to longer decision-making time and more stringent headcount approval processes when it comes to new hires, Pownall said, adding that companies are also feeling the pressure of recruiting the right person who can deliver returns on the salary they pay. Moreover, low unemployment also makes it hard to find the right people to fill roles.
Concurring with Pownall, Tiffany Wong, manager of the human resources division of Robert Walters, a consultant for high-end candidates, said employers have become more “conservative” in hiring lately.
“The usual interview process that was about four to six weeks now takes six to 10 weeks,” she commented, admitting a longer process posts a greater threat of losing good candidates.
“There is a shortage of good candidates in the market and they usually have multiple offers in hand,” she said.