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Salary not all that matters
Published on Thursday, 30 Jun 2011
School-leavers looking for work are less concerned about pay than securing training.
Photo: Felix Wong

Hong Kong's job market will see a surge of young job-seekers over the next two months, with the entrance of fresh graduates and school-leavers. And the good news is that there are jobs galore because housing construction is pushing ahead on high demand from mainland buyers.

With the government gearing up to revive the Home Ownership Scheme, the situation can only get better, according to an official monitoring the implementation of the minimum wage scheme.

"There is a great multiplier effect from an active construction industry. There will be more contracts, technical and legal work. For fresh graduates, this will be a great time. You can say this will be a time of full employment," the official says.

The minimum wage law, launched in May, will have little or no effect on the job market for at least another year or so, he adds. "The effect, if any, is confined to those already in employment and only in certain low-paying occupations."

Inflation is more likely to have a bigger impact in the short term. According to recruitment agency Adecco, their recent survey of 300 tertiary level students showed a 10 per cent rise in salary expectations over 2010.

But fresh graduates interviewed by Fuel say this higher expectation has everything to do with inflation which currently runs at over 5 per cent, and likely to go above 6per cent by September. Inflation is at its highest since 1997.

Two fresh graduates from Baptist University who are looking for work told Fuel the "higher" expectations are to meet higher rents and the rising costs of food. Both are from the mainland. "I don't expect any difficulty getting a job for the moment," Leslie Fong says.

However, a human resources executive with a power corporation thinks otherwise. "Minimum wage will impose difficulties for graduates in non-professional disciplines as employers may tend to hire experienced employees with similar costs," she says. "University graduates will have to compete with college and secondary school leavers."

So will it be more difficult for graduates to find a job? "Yes, employers will definitely go for higher productivity," she says.

The best paid jobs for fresh graduates will be found in the professional disciplines, legal, medical and accounting. However, most fresh graduates will end up in service industries such as banking and finance, fast-moving consumer goods, as well as hotel and tourism.

The government official tracking the implementation of the minimum wage scheme says the measure was introduced to protect low wage earners. University graduates do not fall into this category. He says fresh graduates entering the job market for the first time are generally less concerned about salaries than securing the necessary training required for their careers. This is especially the case for those with professional degrees.

The Adecco survey also reveals that most fresh graduates selecting desired employers look at remuneration, career development opportunities, and company size. About 34 per cent of fresh graduates surveyed expect their package to include a year-end bonus and a medical plan. Some 47 per cent ranked training as the highest concern, followed by promotion opportunity (30 per cent) and continuing education allowance (23 per cent). More than a third prefer to work in companies with at least 100 employees.

The official says that for school-leavers with good prospects of securing a university place, there is little likelihood of postponing tertiary education because of the stiff competition in the job market later. Only borderline cases will consider postponing higher education, he says.

He adds that the job market this year will be buoyant. "It's a good time for both school-leavers and graduates. Next year may be different altogether," he says, adding that economic conditions in the West will be a big unknown.

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