The results of a recent study of employers' hiring plans augur well for the year ahead. The latest Manpower employment outlook survey, which sought the views of more than 800 companies on recruitment prospects for the first quarter of 2011, found the mood to be upbeat and expansionist.
Twenty-one per cent of the respondents say they have firm plans to increase headcount in the early part of next year. Only 1 per cent suggest a possibility of staff numbers being reduced.
"Employment prospects have continued to improve steadily since the second quarter of 2009," says Lancy Chui, managing director of Manpower Hong Kong, Macau and Vietnam operations. "GDP growth has helped strengthen the job market and Hong Kong employers are increasingly optimistic."
She expects the pace of recruitment to remain brisk, with job seekers able to benefit from the creation of new roles and greater urgency on the part of hiring managers.
Answers from companies in all six of the main industries the survey tracks indicate a positive net employment outlook. This is calculated by subtracting the number of employers who plan to recruit staff from the total who plan to hire.
The most optimistic, gauged by hiring expectations, was the services sector, buoyed by China's strong economic performance.
"Deep-pocketed mainlanders continue to boost the demand for workers in this sector," Chui says. "Consumer enthusiasm for luxury products and services is likely to keep benefiting Hong Kong's tourism industry and related areas in the coming months."
She cautions, however, that more expensive rental costs, in a city where rates for retail space are already among the highest in the world, could dampen the creation of frontline positions. "This is an ongoing cost consideration and another factor that may impact employers' ability to hire," she says.
Chui also notes the need to keep a close eye on Hong Kong's external trade and global markets. External shocks could undermine local hiring and, with the economic outlook in the United States and Europe still far from certain, the manufacturing would continue to face challenges.
That said, though, expectations for finance, insurance and real estate are brighter, and this should lead to benefits for areas such as construction and transportation.
"We see employment prospects in a positive light," Chui says. "[There is] growing demand for specific skill sets in wealth management, accounting and audit, telemarketing and frontline sales."