A new study into salaries and hiring trends in Hong Kong has revealed a strong shift in emphasis towards digital talent acquisition as organisations seek the skills they need to transform and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

The 2021 Hong Kong Salary Guide, by global multi-sector recruitment firm Claremont Consulting, unpicks the impact of Covid-19 and social upheaval, both of which have had a significant impact on the city, leading to a major slowdown in the labour market.

Claremont’s researchers found that Hong Kong’s hiring activity dropped to its lowest point of the year in the second quarter of 2020 with businesses not making a significant comeback until the third and fourth quarters.

Financial services, however, fared brilliantly in 2020, with some banks posting near-record revenues. Private equity and venture capital firms have been active, making significant investments in technology, the internet, healthcare, life sciences, and other related industries. For some businesses, hiring activity has been brisk, with stiff competition for talent throughout the year.

Claremont’s Raymond Mo, APAC regional director, says: “Companies’ increasing focus on digital transformation will drive talent demand in 2021.

“Many companies have accelerated their digital transformation as a result of COVID-19, with some of the main outcomes already being the shift to remote and hybrid work patterns, as well as the emergence of virtual interviews and onboarding practices,” he says.

“The workforce strategy from leaders moving forward will need to evolve their retention strategies, placing more focus on the required competencies, benefits, incentives and salary packages to ensure their employees’ needs are both met and exceeded with the shift in hybrid work patterns,” he adds.

Mo believes candidates in the banking and finance sector, with highly sought-after skills and experience, will be able to negotiate a higher salary when changing jobs in 2021. The salary increase, however, is unlikely to be as large as it was between 2016 and 2019 when the economy was doing much better, he says.

According to the salary guide, a finance director can expect to earn up to $1,300,000 in 2021, with the top salary for an accountant recorded as $660,000 and earning potential for a financial analyst listed as between $330,000 and $430,000.

IT is another sector that has seen salaries and opportunities “skyrocket” in the past year, according to the guide, which attributes this to companies moving their operations online and consumer demand for e-commerce, payments, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions.

A data scientist can earn up to $2,000,000 in Hong Kong, with a UX/UI designer commanding between $600,000 and $1,000,000 and a Java developer earning between $300,000 and $660,000.

In the field of HR, the guide predicts that demand for experienced professionals in organisational growth and talent management will increase in 2021 as more businesses concentrate on long-term company sustainability and talent development. As a result, a senior HR manager can expect to earn between $650,000 and $1,050,000 according to the guide.

In sales and marketing, traditional positions in big data analytics and customer experience management have risen in importance or been replaced by digitally savvy positions claims the guide, noting that the pace of digitalisation varies by industry, with technology and telecommunications firms driving this change in talent demand and hospitality, pharmaceuticals, and fast-moving consumer goods transforming more gradually due to the need for more physical customer interactions. The guide states that in 2021 and beyond, these more traditional businesses are more likely to hire someone with experience in strategy and execution to help them accelerate their digital transformation.

Life sciences is one area where salaries are not expected to rise significantly in the near future, according to the guide. Supply chain, on the other hand, is earmarked for growth with Hong Kong SAR well-positioned to aid in the recovery of the global supply chain network thanks to its reputation as a big trade city with one of the top ten busiest ports in the world.

With a mass immunisation programme well underway and a gradual return to work, Mo says hiring spikes are becoming more common, especially in specific industries that had to lay off a portion of their personnel during the pandemic’s peak.

He says: “Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a significant increase in businesses looking for people with transformation, project management, change management, software development, cloud computing, data analytics, and UX/UI expertise. These digital skills are in high demand right now, particularly among professionals who can analyse data to uncover trends and scenarios and set up digital procedures.

“Employers may still be wary to hire the big numbers but they remain keen to hire right, with most recognising that the key to getting the right hire is salaries.”


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