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2020 Hong Kong Salary Guide

The Morgan McKinley 2020 Salary Guide outlines salaries for professionals in Hong Kong, as well as the most in-demand skills and prominent market trends.

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Latest Salaries

Our detailed salary tables allow job seekers to recognise their worth by benchmarking their current remuneration against industry standards. The tables are also useful for employers as they give an accurate idea of what they should be paying their employees.

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Top Skills

We all know that every different job requires unique skills. Our salary guide highlights the key skill sets that hiring organisations have requested over the past twelve months, as well as what we expect to be in demand throughout 2020.

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Market Trends

Our recruitment consultants are experts in their particular areas. From speaking to a wide range of hiring managers and professionals of all seniority levels, they have an up-to-date understanding of all industry occurrences.

An overview of the market back in 2019

2019 has been a challenging year for the economy, decreasing by 3.2% quarter-on-quarter in real terms in the third quarter of 2019, after the fall of 0.5% in the preceding quarter, indicating that the Hong Kong economy has entered a technical recession. The second half of the year has seen a turbulent political situation that has impacted all areas of the economy. Hong Kong has almost full employment with a jobless rate of just over 3%. Those looking for work are usually able to find employment, however the economy still faces a labour shortage. There is a notable gap amongst those aged under 25 where unemployment sits around 8%.

With Hong Kong's industry structure weighted towards finance, property, professional and trade-related service industries, we have seen continued demand for technology, IT, IoT and 5G skills. We have also seen a noticeable shift in the demand for highly mobile talent within the technology and Chinese institutions for skills within the Greater Bay Area.

Employers across several sectors continued to comment on the difficulty in hiring enough workers with the right skills and training, even within the university-educated talent pool. Amongst the core skills that employers comment on the graduate market lacking are language, client management, communication and critical thinking skills. Over the first half of the year we saw local graduates facing increased competition from qualified talent from elsewhere, but this has reduced over the past 6 months.

We have continued to see demand within the risk and compliance sector, technology and marketing within the e-commerce and data lead disciplines, alongside an increased demand in HR (employee relations) and contracting. The market for front office, finance and accounting and operations roles have been significantly tougher. Several organisations within these spaces remained conservative, due to the continued political unrest and the backdrop of the US-China trade war. Contracting within the technology and finance & accounting sector has remained buoyant. Although the market is tight for talent, we expect to see growth in this sector in 2020, as the market for labour hire from a time and materials perspective matures, and most certainly if the continued unrest does not abate.

Demand for gig economy talent in IT and Technology

The demand for niche talent with skills that are relevant and can evolve in the gig economy continued to grow, with such demand being the headline for organisations. As the availability of full-time talent remained in short supply, more growth was seen in the contracting market. There has been a reduction within start-ups accounting for a high percentage of the hiring, mostly due to the shift for stability and innovation led by blue chips and large SME organisations which have become more preferable for talent wanting higher remuneration and stability. The shift towards 5G and the smart city concept fuelled the demand for niche talent within the sector. We continue to see growth in data & analytics, transformation, robotics, cyber, UX and devops, while traditional IT sectors around infrastructure, .net and project management remained stable.

Strong growth in risk and compliance

With the risk function constantly evolving, it was not just financial services firms that required innovative, flexible talent. The speed of digital innovation, the introduction of digital banking licences and the push for 5G created huge opportunities in the risk function. We have seen increased demand within operational risk, risk innovation and digitisation, and risk data science and transformation. Credit Risk, quantitative risk and market risk have all remained stable.

Compliance maintained steady growth as it continued to become a more integral part for an organisation’s ability to function. This has been prevalent across the insurance sector and the general financial services sector within Hong Kong. Whilst 2018 saw a higher level of job-hopping, this has slowed significantly in 2019 with applicants looking for more stable long-term solutions.

Front-office continued downwards hiring trend whilst operations remained stable. 2019 saw a slowdown in the use of offshoring having an impact on BAU and operations functions that we saw in 2018. The front office market at the senior end has seen unrest due to the current climate with organisations taking a more conservative view on the hiring and geographical location of senior roles within HK.

The trend for reducing local headcount and moving junior staff to markets like Shanghai has still continued amongst the mainland institutions, but slowed considerably with MNCs based in HK. Relationship Managers (RMs) continue to remain in high demand from retail, corporate, and particularly, private banks. Whilst Hong Kong’s talent pool has always been small in this space, the continued demand for multilingual high-performing RMs across the market has kept salaries inflated.

Finance and accounting has remained stable but challenging

It has been a challenging year for job seekers in finance and accounting, with the number of positions continuing to decrease across traditional sectors. We have continued to see rising demand for talent from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and statutory authorities. The NGOs have consistently provided more opportunities for the sector and growth that we have seen. Following on from 2018 we have seen a challenging period for senior level candidates. Some reasons for that would be international banks moving headquarters away from Hong Kong and the unstable political environment.

Sales, marketing and HR saw demand increased in key areas

We have continued to see demand within the sales and marketing sectors, specifically within the e-commerce and data lead disciplines alongside an increased demand in HR – Employee relations and contracting. Whilst FMCG and traditional retail have slowed significantly, we still saw the technology, telecommunications and professional services sectors hiring in these sectors. The e-commerce and fintech sectors are still showing growth, specifically for those that require marketing professionals, including digital marketing, data & analytics, cyber, 5G and robotics skills.

The need for English and Simplified Chinese copywriting and content generation talent has seen a slowdown in H2 this year, largely due to the suffering FMCG and tourism sectors under the greater economic environment. Yet, professionals with strong networks, language skills and exposure to multiple geographies are still the most in demand.

Employee benefits, inclusion and diversity continued to drive the agenda

Flexibility within the workforce and the drive for more female talent across banking, accounting and finance, technology and marketing and at a senior level continued to drive the agenda for organisations alongside digital transformation.

We continue to see the future of work offer multiple challenges and opportunities in providing employee benefits. We have seen continued drive from organisations around creating work-life balance and supporting well-being initiatives, specifically around mental health and employee well-being. Staff engagement and innovation around attrition and retention have been key focuses.

Continuous growth for contracting and other flexible solutions

Whilst permanent positions have always been preferential to Hong Kong candidates, the continued demand for niche digital skills, exposure to different platforms and environments has been a core driver in the demand for contractor growth. To tackle the constantly changing needs in the commercial environments, highly skilled agile workforces delivering on a project basis were in need. We cannot deny the correlation between the increase in political instability through 2019 and the increase in the number of employers looking at more flexible solutions, as they would not like themselves potentially exposed to high headcounts and cost bases.

There has also been a notable continuation from 2018, in which both job seekers and organisations became less resistant to contracting. Hong Kong’s contracting market has seen continued growth year on year.

Insurance, digital banking and traditional financial services firms continued to embrace a model that technology businesses and start-ups are familiar with.

Employers and providers must continue to ensure they understand the regulatory changes and compliance issues that play a crucial role in the supply of contractual labour.

We still saw demand in 2019 outstripping supply for talent with organisations exploring outsourcing and project services solutions as well as expanding their searches into other markets to source high-quality talent.

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