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A faster career path and stimulating salary scheme will bring Hong Kongers home, says Hays


Updated: 03 Feb 2015

Family ties and Hong Kong’s culture bring many overseas Hong Kongers back home, but good job opportunities and the possibility of a faster career path also help attract returners, according to a survey by recruiting experts Hays.


Hays spoke to 385 Hong Kong residents who are either studying or working overseas, but thinking about coming back to Hong Kong for their next career step.


“Returning Hong Kongers offer employers the opportunity to recruit local talent with highly valued international experience, but they come with a price tag,” says Christine Wright, Managing Director of Hays in Asia.


“For both local and Western businesses they are an alternative to Western expatriates. In our survey, we sought to find out what motivates Hong Kongers to return, what real value they offer over less expensive candidates without overseas experience, and what is the best approach to their recruitment.”


According to the findings:


·         Motivations: 53% of potential returners said they miss the culture and lifestyle of Hong Kong. 47% are motivated to return in order to live closer to family. 37% feel that Hong Kong has more job opportunities for them, and 32% expect to have a faster career path in Hong Kong.

·         Type of organisation: 63% want to work for a foreign-owned enterprise if they return.

·         Industry: If they were to return, 24% want to work in Hong Kong’s financial services industry. 13% want to work in professional services, 11% elected IT/telecommunications and 9% said engineering.

·         Salary: 53% will only come back to Hong Kong if they can increase their salary. 28% want a salary equivalent to their current earnings, and just 16% are willing to take a drop in salary to return to a good job.

·         Advantages: 44% said cross-cultural communication skills are their number one advantage over local candidates. 30% said it is their overseas work experience.

·         Length of job search: Almost half of our survey respondents (49%) expect it will take one to three months to find a job if they were to return to Hong Kong; 13% think it will take more than six months. 54% think it’s easier to get a job in Hong Kong than where they are living overseas.  

·         Movement overseas: In a separate survey, Hays asked a selection of our candidates in Hong Kong whether they would consider working overseas, either now or in the future. Almost all (83%) said they would consider working overseas for better job opportunities, career development or exposure. So it seems that the movement of professionals overseas shows no sign of abating.


“Many returning Hong Kongers understand their worth in the global marketplace,” said Christine. “They are aware that Hong Kong employers – both home-grown and multinational – value their Westernised way of thinking and business experience, mixed with their local knowledge and cultural understanding.  As a result, many want to realise that value in the reward structures that they receive upon returning.


“According to our survey, if they were to return home, the majority (53 per cent) will only return if they can increase their current earnings. Hong Kong returners appear to be more motivated by increased salaries than their counterparts looking to return to Singapore (49 per cent) and Malaysia (38 per cent), suggesting they are wary of the high cost of living and housing in Hong Kong.


“Also, working hours tend to be longer in Hong Kong, so higher salaries are perceived to be a way of making up for the lack of work/life balance,” she said.


Advice for employers

When recruiting returning Hong Kongers, the greatest challenge faced by employers is to avoid overpaying while still making sure they offer enough to secure this great global talent.


According to Hays, employers recruiting such talent should firstly make sure they pay appropriately for skill, and nothing else. ”While salary is a key driver, think about your overall offering and benefits package,” says Christine.


Then, find your leverage and recruit intelligently. “What attracts a candidate to your organisation might not be purely financial,” says Christine. “As our survey shows, talent can be brought home by family ties and career advancement opportunities, so talk to your recruiter to gain a deeper insight into what motivates the candidate. With this knowledge, you can tailor your offer.”


Finally, employers should also work to hold on to the professionals they already have. “According to our survey, 32 per cent of returners are considering coming back to Hong Kong because they believe they will have a faster career path here. This highlights the importance of putting a solid and individualised retention plan in place, which includes open and honest discussions with returners about their career development expectations,” she said.


Profile of Hays’ survey respondents

Of our 385 survey respondents, 35 per cent had studied in Hong Kong and 34 per cent in Europe. Returning Hong Kongers are typically a highly educated group. 44 per cent hold a Bachelor degree, 42 per cent a Masters. Just over a quarter (28 per cent) of our survey group have 15+ years of experience and 25 per cent have between five and ten years of experience.


For more, read Hays’ Hong Kong Returners Report at


Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.

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