Hong Kong losing its charm for expat professionals

Published:  17 May at 6 PM
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Once the favoured exotic destination for expat professionals, Hong Kong is losing ground to India and Japan due to its shrinking benefit packages.

Expat pay packages and benefits in Hong Kong, once a favourite of expat professionals looking to get the best deal, are at their lowest point since 2012. The once generous terms of employment have dropped by 5 per cent and are now eclipsed by job offerings on the Chinese mainland, in Japan and in India. The average package of salary and inclusive benefits for middle managers is now at HK$2.06 million a year, a fall of HK$10,400 from 2016.

Human resources executives are attributing the drop to the falling rents in popular expat neighbourhoods including Repulse Bay and The Peak, both of which districts were the subject of a recent report stating that foreign professionals were leaving for less expensive suburban districts. According to one human resources CEO, international companies are facing challenges over the balance between staying cost-effective and hiring the best people for available jobs.

Japan is taking over as the best deal for managerial level expat professionals, with mainland China in second position. Japanese middle management salaries now equate to HK$2.85 million, with companies in major Chinese cities not far behind with an average of HK$2.19 million. Traditionally, Hong Kong attracted more top talent than China’s huge cities due to its generous packages, but soaring living costs and pollution in China have seen packages increase in order to persuade talented foreigners to take up jobs on the mainland.

US dollar currency movements have affected expatriates in that the amounts have declined when converted from yuan to the US dollar. For foreign companies needing to send expat professionals overseas, China is still an attractive proposition as rising costs in yuan represent a fall in US dollar terms. For expats wanting to send money home, it’s not good news, but for those paid in yuan and spending in China, it’s an added attraction.

One downside for expats travelling with their families is that several major companies are no longer including education subsidies, and a few companies are simply sending their managers to Hong Kong every often to supervise rather than basing them on the island. According to a January survey, Hong Kong is now Asia’s fifth most expensive destination, with apartment rentals in high-end districts now running at 14 per cent more than in Tokyo, the second most expensive Asian city.
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