Shih Wing-ching, Chief Executive, Centaline Group, in am730 (December 1, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)
In her policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor proposed an employment scheme in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area for newly graduated Hong Kong youths. The scheme has a total of 2,000 places, 80 percent in general roles and 20 percent in innovation and technology. The monthly salary will be at least HK$18,000 (US$2,308) and HK$26,000 ($3,333), respectively. Participating companies will be able to receive salary subsidies from the SAR government amounting to HK$10,000 (US$1,282) and HKD18,000, respectively.
The chief executive’s scheme appears to be a practical arrangement, designed to attract young people to go to the mainland and broaden their work experience. After all, the mainland market is both larger and more competitive than Hong Kong. As such, Hong Kong employees should be able to develop their skills faster. These opportunities can only be provided under an environment of rapid economic growth.
In recent years, however, Hong Kong has been affected by the Western trend of resistance to China. Many young people are reluctant to consider the mainland in their career plans. This may explain why the government is willing to provide salary subsidies as an incentive for Hong Kong youths.
The salary subsidies will mean that a starting salary could be 50 percent higher than the average starting salary in Hong Kong and twice the average starting salary in the mainland. This may sound like a good incentive but may not be sustainable in the long run. Unlike a few decades ago, today’s young mainland generation now outperform their Hong Kong counterparts in terms both knowledge and practical problem-solving ability. It is uncertain how many companies would be genuinely interested in hiring young Hong Kong people without receiving any government subsidies.
Instead of subsidizing the employees, the Hong Kong government should subsidize employers to open positions up to youth while offering them the same wage as their mainland counterparts. Ultimately, if you work in the mainland, as long as you work hard, the pay will not be significantly worse than in Hong Kong. In addition, the mainland market is large so corporate profits may ultimately be much greater than that of Hong Kong.