Hong Kong enjoying increased labour participation rates

New data from Hays suggests employers have a better chance of recruiting staff with the right skills

Employers in Hong Kong should find it easier to recruit staff with the right skills according to the latest labour participation rates for the city, which indicated an increasing number of potential workers available to fill posts.

Hong Kong has had to face up to a diminishing talent pool in recent years, partly due to emigration and a fluctuating birth rate. But figures from the latest Hays Global Skills Index, published last month, suggest that greater labour participation had eased labour pressures, positive news given the region’s shrinking working age population.

Since the release of a similar Hays report in 2012, Hong Kong's score has increased from 3.7 to a high of 4.5 for three consecutive years, before settling back to its current 4.3. Scores are based on a series of seven indicators, marked out of ten, with lower scores signifying more positive news. Indicators include: education flexibility; wage pressures; labour participation; labour market flexibility; and talent mismatch.

Recruitment experts were quick to welcome the results of the Hays survey, noting that the region’s growing labour participation rates were a prospective boon for employers, but warned that low-skilled workers must adapt their skills for roles in an increasingly digitised economy, while organisations should tailor training programmes to support staff in changing jobs.

Andrew Simmonds, managing director of recruitment firm Talent Tree, said he agreed with the sentiments expressed in Hays’ report, but said candidates and clients he is working with are cautiously optimistic about the economy in the short term.

There continues to be a preference for candidates with language skills in the Hong Kong and Singapore labour markets, he said. “Asian candidates are often preferred, but western candidates can make a case to be hired if they have really relevant expertise and experience.”

Some local candidates with language skills and the right skillset expected higher salaries and packages than expatriates, he added.

“As regulations have tightened in Singapore, it's become a little harder to hire there,” said Simmonds. “I think some organisations will now look to Hong Kong instead, since the regulations are less restrictive.”

Hong Kong employers and HR managers agree that digitisation also has a role to play in helping combat skill shortages, as it allows skilled workers to work flexibly, efficiently and remotely, and there is growing demand for new roles within this fast developing area.

As the supply of skilled workers remains steady, Hong Kong businesses will find themselves better able to focus on adapting their workforce in the face of a rapidly developing technological landscape. Experts predict the rise of technology and automation in the workplace will facilitate greater communication and flexible working, as well as demand for new jobs, but will also take the place of some existing roles.

Commenting on the report, Alistair Cox, chief executive of Hays, said: “In future, low-skilled jobs are the most likely to be affected, so low-skilled workers must prepare to adapt their skillset to meet the new demands brought about by a more tech-centric work landscape. Similarly, employers in Hong Kong and elsewhere should look to adapt their training for workers whose jobs will be changed, rather than eliminated, through technology."

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