More than seven in 10 of the city’s professional and administrative staff are counting on a pay rise this year, compared with 64 per cent of their counterparts in Singapore and 56 per cent internationally, according to a survey by human resources firm Randstad.
Those aged between 35 and 54 in Hong Kong were the most optimistic about scoring a salary increase, Randstad found, when it polled at least 400 full-time, white-collar workers aged between 18 and 65 in each of three markets – Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia – between October and November last year.
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Natellie Sun, managing director of Randstad Hong Kong, said employees were probably geared up to ask for higher pay on the back of an improving and stabilising economy.
“Hongkongers are likely to expect a higher salary this year to match the increasing cost of living in the city. However, employees are also expecting this as part of a retention strategy due to intense competition for talent,” she said.
The city reported 3.8 per cent GDP growth last year, higher than the government’s own forecast and the 1.6 per cent growth rate in 2016.
Singapore’s economy also expanded by 3.6 per cent last year, logging its fastest growth in three years.
Sun expected that in the positive economic climate Hong Kong’s technology sector, especially financial technology, would experience more fierce competition for talent as the government sought to expand the industry and companies looked to adopt new technologies.
But the poll – Randstad’s fourth mobility survey for 2017 – also found certain groups in Hong Kong to be more pessimistic than their counterparts in the Lion City.
For younger workers aged between 18 and 34, nearly 75 per cent in Singapore expected a pay increase compared with 70 per cent in Hong Kong.
“We have also noticed that the younger employees prioritise job satisfaction and the scope of work over salary. Salaries at the graduate level have also been stagnant,” Sun said.
When it came to getting a bonus, female employees in Hong Kong had lower expectations than their peers abroad. Only 52.5 per cent thought they would be rewarded – compared with close to 70 per cent of women in Singapore.
Sun noted that younger Singaporeans were likely seeking better pay from their employers as they felt they needed a boost to cope with the higher cost of living in the country.
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Hong Kong continues to be the world’s priciest property market, but both it and Singapore are among the world’s most expensive cities to live in for expatriates, according to several global surveys.
ECA International, another human resources agency, announced in January that when it came to rental prices, Hong Kong remained the most expensive location in Asia while Singapore dropped one place to eighth.
For female employees, equal opportunities advocates in Hong Kong said they were still lagging behind men in workforce participation and salaries, even though a study done four years ago ranked Hong Kong third out of six major regional economies in terms of the number of women in workplaces.
According to a 2016 census report, working women earn at least a few thousand dollars less than men on average. The largest pay gap was found in the education sector, where women get HK$9,800 less per month than men.