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Conservative salary growth outlook for Hong Kong

Updated: 01 Mar 2014


  • 54 per cent of employers in Hong Kong who responded gave a salary increase of 3 to 6 per cent last year;
  • Looking ahead, 54 per cent of employers in Hong Kong will increase salaries by 3 to 6 per cent, and 17 per cent will offer increases above that level;
  • 71 per cent of employers expect business activity to increase.


Employees in Hong Kong will receive conservative salary increases this year, with China instead poised for Asia’s strongest salary growth according to the 2014 Hays Salary Guide.


Released today, the Guide reveals salary and recruiting trends for over 1,200 roles in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. It is based on a survey of over 2,600 employers and placements made by Hays.


It found that in Hong Kong more than one in two employers (54 per cent) increased salaries between 3 and 6 per cent, and only 12 per cent offered increases of 6 to 10 per cent. Just 5 per cent of employers gave increases above 10 per cent.


These findings are slightly more conservative than those for Asia overall, where 22 per cent of employers offered increases between 6 and 10 per cent, and a further 7 per cent increased above that level. 38 per cent increased salaries between 3 and 6 per cent.


And they were significantly more conservative than in China, where 54 per cent of employers increased salaries by 6 to 10 per cent, and a further 12 per cent increased above that level.


Looking ahead, employers in Hong Kong expect to award similar increases this year. 54 per cent intend to increase salaries between 3 and 6 per cent. 17 per cent will increase salaries above this level, but 30 per cent expect to give an increase of less than 3 per cent or no pay increase at all.


Again this is more conservative than the Asian average, and again China is the standout where 58 per cent of employers intend to increase salaries between 6 and 10 per cent this year. Another 9 per cent will increase salaries by more than 10 per cent. 


“Cost control has lowered the ceiling for salary increases in many organisations across Asia,” says Marc Burrage, Regional Director of Hays in Hong Kong. “Employers are more focused on the bottom line.


“Certainly salaries remain competitive, and for the top talent many employers offer higher packages to entice candidates, proving that money still talks. But in general salaries are starting to become more conservative than they once were.


In an attempt to manage retention, we have seen an increase in the number of organisations offering benefits. 85 per cent of organisations now offer their staff benefits, which is up from 79 per cent last year.


“And according to our survey, 53 per cent of employers intend to award a bonus to more than 50 per cent of staff.


“In other positive news, in the next 12 months 71 per cent of employers expect business activity to increase and 43 per cent expect their permanent staff levels to increase.  That’s strong evidence in support of a local economy that is both confident and providing jobs.


“This means that those candidates with in-demand skills and realistic salary expectations can be confident that this year will provide them with the opportunity to secure a challenging career move and a salary increase,” he said.


A summary of key trends revealed in the Hays Salary Guide for Hong Kong by sector follows:


  • Accountancy & Finance: The shortage of talent and Hong Kong’s high cost of living have seen employers offer competitive wages to secure and retain professionals. In most demand are middle management candidates who can bridge the gap between entry-level and senior management.


  • Banking: Despite skill shortages in corporate and commercial banking as well as in compliance, operational risk and regulatory reporting, salary increases have been steady and will remain so, especially for junior to mid-level roles. More flexibility may be seen for salary increases at the senior level. Employers are also using innovative strategies to attract and retain top talent, such as competitive retention packages, promotion and internal mobility for career growth.


  • Insurance: There is notable growth in the general and medical insurance sector as the Hong Kong Government continues to reinforce the concept and the importance of both personal medical protection and sufficient retirement planning. As a result we expect to see high demand for business development and channel distribution professionals, which will significantly impact salary levels given the limited supply in the local candidate pool.


  • Finance Technology: Mobile application development is exponentially growing across banking and this will remain the case, with candidates with Android and iOS skills sought. Given the shortage of IT development professionals with these skills, remuneration will be fundamental to attracting and retaining the top talent.


  • Information Technology: The growth and expansion of system integration companies in Hong Kong has created high demand for Network Security professionals. The expanding cloud technology and network security sector means salaries have risen for experienced professionals. We have also seen demand rise for Network Engineers as more projects are established on the vendor side for deployments and rollouts.


  • Human Resources: Hong Kong has seen increased demand for HR candidates across all areas as a result of healthy rates of economic growth. The main areas of growth are in learning & development and compensation & benefits. Compensation & benefits professionals remain in high demand since they have niche skills that companies need as they expand their workforce across Asia in a very competitive market. Salaries have increased for senior HR candidates, with companies increasingly willing to offer a 20 per cent or more rise to attract suitable talent.


  • Office Professionals: Within the financial sector there is a preference to recruit on a contract basis given permanent headcount restrictions. Team Assistants, Secretaries and Administrators are in demand.


  • Legal: During the second half of 2013, we saw a marked increase in the number of jobs in private practice, while in-house recruitment activity remained steady overall. Legal professionals looking for a new opportunity are not, by and large, receiving as many competing offers as they might have in the past, and associate salary levels have remained steady.


  • Sales & Marketing: Digital marketing is a focus of hiring activity in financial services and companies will consider candidates from other industries, particularly retail. Within IT&T and food and beverage, we are seeing ongoing high demand for skilled junior salespeople. As a result salaries are increasing, most notably for Account Managers, Sales Managers and Business Development Managers with IT&T experience.


  • Supply Chain: Despite an active and growing market, supply chain salaries will increase at a slow rate given that this is a relatively new function.


  • Procurement: Hong Kong’s procurement market is very active especially within the retail industry, as organisations need sourcing specialists to identify quality raw materials to develop better and more attractive consumer products. We expect salaries to remain high in response to the shortage of candidates. Procurement is now a crucial part of profit making due to its role in various strategic cost cutting strategies.


  • Construction & Engineering: Within the buildings engineering sector, skilled individuals with strong facades, curtain walls design and project management experience are highly sought as many engineering consultancies look to progress with high-end commercial high rises. Although demand remains high for experienced construction experts, salary rates have increased only slightly across the board.


  • Architecture: Landscape Architects are experiencing growth in their market value in response to the limited number of registered candidates available locally.


  • Property: Hong Kong’s property and real estate market will remain buoyant this year with stable demand for proven experts within the industry. Real estate professionals in Project and Asset Management, and commercial roles such as Quantity Surveyors, Estimators, Contracts and Cost Managers are in particular demand. Salaries will increase slightly as a result, particularly for senior positions.


Get your copy of the 2014 Hays Salary Guide by visiting, contacting your local Hays office or downloading The Hays Salary Guide 2014 iPhone app from iTunes.


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


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