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Job growth steady in Q1 as firms opt for contract staff
Billy Clarke
update on Saturday, January 28, 2012
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Hong Kong's employment market is steady heading into the new year, according to the quarterly Michael Page Employment Index.

Despite the nervousness in banking and finance, Hong Kong employers are expected to sustain their hiring activity over the coming months to complete another quarter of job growth, the index indicates.

Anthony Thompson, managing director of Michael Page International and Page Personnel, notes that with 37 per cent of companies saying that they plan to hire this quarter, employees ought to be satisfied.

"Though the 37 per cent of surveyed companies who plan to increase staff is lower than the 51 per cent in the same quarter last year, we are still seeing a positive environment," he says.

"The numbers [of available positions] we are seeing continue to be close to record levels," he adds.

The survey also found that confidence in business conditions improved 27 per cent over the final quarter of 2011, suggesting that an increasing number of businesses are becoming more confident about the stability of the domestic economy.

While there remains some negative sentiment about developments in Europe and the United States, this has yet to have a drastic effect outside financial services, Thompson says.

"There is definitely a healthy level of anxiety and nervousness which is strongly linked to economic uncertainty," he says. "But so far, the only concrete signs of this have been within the financial arena."

Beyond the financial services industry, there is still a hint of caution, but recruitment remains reasonably solid, Thompson adds.

The index indicates that the first-quarter outlook for domestic business will be mixed, with a third of samples confident about global demand, and another third saying they're unsure - largely due to economic uncertainties, says Thompson.

This anxiety is creating problems for employers and employees, as people and companies plan for the year.

"Employers often become concerned that their employees will look for new opportunities once they've received bonuses in the new year, but the underlying negativity is making a career change more daunting for employees," Thompson says.

In addition, recruitment becomes potentially more challenging in a difficult market as candidates become more careful. "Very talented candidates will tend to be more reluctant to move," Thompson says.

As a result, employers have turned towards contract and temporary staff, with demand rising from the same quarter last year.

"Shifting the focus on to flexible workers allows [companies] to be productive and to react swiftly, should there be any dramatic economic changes," says Thompson.

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