Hong Kong employers report positive hiring plans during Quarter 2 of 2014, according ManpowerGroup’s second quarter Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.
After removing seasonal variations from survey data, Hong Kong’s Net Employment Outlook stands at +16%, as hiring prospects increased slightly by 2 percentage points quarter-on-quarter, improving moderately by 5 percentage points year-on-year.
Seventeen percent of 804 employers surveyed forecast increasing staffing levels in the next quarter, while 3 percent anticipated a decrease. Seventy-five percent expect no change for the second quarter 2014.
Employers in all six industry sectors expect to boost staffing levels during the upcoming quarter. Quarter-on-quarter, hiring prospects improve in three of the six industry sectors, while year-on-year, employers report stronger hiring intentions in four of the six key industry sectors.
The most optimistic hiring prospects were reported in the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector, where the Outlook stands at an optimistic +23%. This is a considerable increase of 13 percentage points quarter-on-quarter and up 12 percentage points year-on-year.
“The local government has announced its intent to increase the housing supply over the next decade, together with policies geared to lowering interest rates that would support the hiring intention of property companies to enhance frontline workforces,” explains Lancy Chui, Regional Managing Director of ManpowerGroup Greater China Region.
Chui notes that one local Government survey also reveals over one-third of respondents in financing and insurance sector expected a better business environment overall in Q1 2014 over Q4 2013.
"This can, partially explain, financial institution and bank optimism towards increasing their hiring in order to develop their debt capital market. Moreover, demand for talent possessing risk management continues to grow in order to handle regulatory-related issues enacted after the financial crisis in 2008," she adds.Employers in the Services sector predict a healthy hiring pace, reflecting an Outlook of +21% - a moderate increase of six and seven percentage points respectively over last quarter and the same quarter last year.
“Growing demand in experienced and skilled IT professionals has stimulated companies to hire in the service sectors,” Chui said. “Strong hiring prospects are seen in mobile application development, system support and IT security positions. In addition, we are observing companies of a varied nature seek IT talent, particularly in social media and with knowledge in sales and marketing to manage and promote their online selling platform.”
Second quarter hiring expectations in Mining and Construction are also upbeat, with an Outlook of +19%. Hiring intentions remain relatively stable quarter-over-quarter, increasing moderately by 7 percentage points year-on-year.
“To ensure infrastructure can support Hong Kong’s business strategy, major infrastructure projects, such as railways and housing etc are now in main construction mode which has placed hiring pressure in the construction sector,” Chui says. “As our infrastructure continues to grow and widen, added pressure is being put on an already inadequately skilled workforce in this sector."
At current development levels, over 10,000 skilled workers are required. "Unfortunately, retirement of aging construction workers and the reluctance of younger workers to join the industry does not bode well over the short- to mid-terms,” Chui surmised. “To add to this, architects and engineers are also in great demand, particularly those with Hong Kong, China and South East Asia experience,” she also said.
Steady workforce gains are anticipated in the Wholesale & Retail Trade sector, where employers report an Outlook of +14% - relatively stable quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year.
“The latest retail sales figures still show a continued increase as a result of inbound tourism, as more Mainland China shoppers visited Hong Kong in comparison to last year. Accordingly, the demand for frontline workforce staff remains high, as does the hiring of retail staff for employers in the wholesale and retail trade sector,” Chui explained.
The difficulty for employers to attract staff are the long working hours and the physical rigors of and standing for long periods are not attractive propositions for younger staff – not necessarily to enter the profession, but to remain within it over the longer-term,” Chui explained.
Employers in the Transportation & Utilities sector predict a respectable Outlook at +12%. The Outlook decreased slightly by 2 percentage points from last quarter and 3 percentage points from the same quarter last year.
“Despite an increase in aviation hiring to meet the need to handle increasing number of passenger traffic, the overall transportation sector faces significant staff attraction challenges, particularly for drivers and captains,” says Chui. “To compete, employers will need to more aggressively build a positive image for their industry and place considerably more effort on staff retention strategies.”
Hiring within the Manufacturing sector is likely to slow in quarter ahead, as employers report an Outlook of +9%, and 5 percentage points weaker quarter-over-quarter, although relatively stable year-over-year.
“Although the PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) of Hong Kong is at its highest levels since February 2012 at 52.7, job cuts are still continuing in several manufacturing areas,“ says Chui. “Overseas clients continue to play a 'wait and see' approach, and material costs and salary demands put added pressure on employers.”Hong Kong is one of 42 countries and territories that take part in the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey. In the Asia Pacific region, stronger Net Employment Outlooks are reported in five countries and territories when compared with the previous quarter, with employers reporting weaker hiring prospects in two. When compared with Q2 2013, hiring plans improve in seven countries and territories, and decline only in China.
Globally, employers in 38 surveyed regions report positive hiring plans during the first quarter of 2014. Employers in India, Taiwan, New Zealand, Turkey and Costa Rica report the strongest first-quarter hiring expectations. The weakest – and only negative –Outlooks are reported in Italy, the Czech Republic and in France.