The city-state of Hong Kong is one of the most booming urban centres on Earth and has been a major attraction for expats seeking employment for many years, particularly those from the UK, with which Hong Kong obviously has historical ties. There are a very wide range of jobs available but there are also some restrictions, both of which we will look at below.The government has also been trying to attract Chinese nationals from the mainland, as trade gradually begins to open up in the region, and expats are thus facing more competition than they used to. Salaries can be high, especially in the finance industry, but the cost of living is also high: Hong Kong is an expensive place to live and accommodation in particular can cost a lot in this crowded, highly-populated part of the world.
Experts say that there are two main kinds of expat employees:
• skilled professionals: for example software engineers, doctors and R&D specialists (these will be issued with an Employment Visa)
• semi-skilled professionals: for example, technicians, who will be issued a visa under the Supplementary Labor Scheme
Employers must show that the vacancy in question cannot be filled by a local. You will also need a visa for entry unless you hold a British passport: in that case you will not need to apply for a visa and can stay for 6 months. If you wish to work, however, you will need to apply for an employment visa even though you are a British national.
Under the Employment for Professionals scheme, you and your employer will need to supply:
• proof of your job offer: this must be relevant to your work experience or qualifications
• the company’s financial record and company registration number
• a clean legal record
• relevant qualifications
• proof of salary including income, medical, accommodation and other benefits which must be comparable to salaries paid to locals in Hong Kong
• passport valid for at least 6 months
• completed employment visa application form
• 2-3 passport sized photographs
• proof of travel insurance
• proof of health insurance
Your work permit will last for 12 months and is not transferable to another company if you change your job: you will need to re-apply. Companies may also be held responsible for seeing that you are repatriated once your employment comes to an end, assuming that you are not going into another job in Hong Kong.
Since the state is still English-speaking, you will be at some advantage as a native speaker, but more so if you also speak Cantonese or Mandarin. Having a degree from a highly-regarded Western university is also a plus. You will have an advantage if you are a member of a specialized profession and if you are coming in at the top end of the job market: these jobs command high salaries and may also include attractive employment packages (medical insurance and accommodation, for example).
Teaching English (TEFL) is a popular choice and if you have qualifications and a degree, you should have quite a few options in the private sector.
Hong Kong has a hard-working, intensive business culture. Typical working hours are from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. although government offices and banks may close at 5 p.m. Shops can remain open up until 9 p.m. Legally, you are supposed to work between 40-50 hours per week, for 5 days per week, but in practice may negotiate more with your employer.
You will have a minimum of 7 days’ leave for your first year but this will increase in subsequent years, and you can also negotiate for more. You will also be granted 12 days of public holidays.
Employment legislation in Hong Kong falls under the Employment Ordinance (EO) which guarantees minimum benefits to both Hong Kong natives and expat employees. These include:
• paid annual leave
• paid sick leave
• paid maternity and paternity leave
• minimum notice of termination and a right to make a payment in lieu of notice
With a few restricted exceptions, the EO also applies both to full time and part time employees.
The Hong Kong statutory minimum wage for non-domestic workers is currently HK$37.5 (US$4.83) per hour. Average salaries are around HK$19100 (US$2430) per month for men and HK$14700 (US$1875) per month for women, but this obviously depends on the professional level in which you are engaged.
Maternity leave has recently been extended to 14 weeks, and is due to stand at 4/5 of the employee’s average daily wages, subject to a cap of HK$36,822 per employee. This depends on your having been employed under a continuous contract for not less than 40 weeks immediately before the start of your maternity leave. You will also need to inform your employer and will need to produce a medical certificate (this will also protect you against unfair dismissal). Fathers will be eligible for 5 days’ paternity leave, with a similar condition of 40 weeks’ continuous employment.
If you leave Hong Kong, you will need to undergo tax clearance.
You can bring your spouse with you as a dependent, but they must apply separately for a work visa.
You can make speculative applications and approach companies directly, but it is recommended that you apply through a recruitment agency or a headhunter, particularly if you are aiming at a job in senior management. The local press (particularly the South China Morning Post) and online job boards may also prove helpful.
Applying For A Job
You can either apply directly or via a recruitment agency. You are likely to be offered a phone interview first, followed by an interview in person.
It is illegal under Hong Kong law to discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, race, family status or disability and the Labour Department has issued strict and extensive guidelines with relation to good practice when hiring and interviewing.
Qualifications And Training
A TESOL/MA in Applied Linguistics is preferable in Hong Kong’s competitive TEFL tertiary market.
Hong Kong is a major banking centre and if you have qualifications and experience in merchant banking there are still highly paid posts eligible for expats.
Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!