Demonstrations weighing on job market: Recruiters

HONG KONG • Protracted protests are weighing on Hong Kong's job market, with recruiters finding it harder to woo overseas talent to work in the city and expatriates working there considering leaving.

"Some companies have halted their hiring programmes in Hong Kong amid the lingering protests as they stay on the sidelines to monitor market development," said Mr Simon Lee, programme co-director at Chinese University of Hong Kong's International Business and Chinese Enterprise.

"Enterprises now think there will be political risk involved for relocating their staff to Hong Kong," he said, and if the turmoil is not settled in the near future, "some job positions may be diverted to other countries in the region".

Mr Lee said some companies have cancelled or delayed training programmes scheduled to be held in Hong Kong due to the continuing protests.

Hong Kong is in its 12th week of protests, which were initially sparked by an anti-extradition Bill amendment, which has now been suspended.

Multinational companies are holding off on business expansions in Hong Kong, therefore they are less eager to send overseas expatriates to the city.

However, Mr Lee said Hong Kong is still attractive as a regional talent hub, given its good institutional attributes such as rule of law, free flow of information and lack of corruption. "If the government could seize the opportunity to solve long-term structural problems such as wealth disparity and affordable housing", when the turmoil is settled, the city could quickly restore its economic vigour and attract talent once again, he said.

Concerns about safety are leading some job candidates from abroad to choose somewhere else.

"Some overseas talent decided to take job offers in Shanghai, given the consideration of personal safety", as Hong Kong is rattled by the lingering turmoil, said Ms Alexa Chow, managing director of AMAC Human Resources Consultants, formerly known as Centaline Human Resources Consultants.

Even when stability is restored, overseas expatriates might still need another half year or so to gauge whether the city is stable enough for career development, she said.

Mr Armstrong Lee, managing director of Worldwide Consulting Group, said 20 per cent to 30 per cent of companies are slowing the pace of recruitment, mostly affecting mid-level posts.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2019, with the headline 'Demonstrations weighing on job market: Recruiters'. Print Edition | Subscribe