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Pay packets on the rise as talent war heats up
Published on Friday, 04 Mar 2011

A salary survey by Hays says a vast majority of employers plan on increasing wages this year, most within the three to six percent range. For those working in the financial services sector, increments may be up to five times that.

Hays regional director for Hong Kong and China Emma Charnock attributes the hikes largely to one simple reason: demand.

“We now have a lot of areas experiencing skills shortages,” she says. “The demand is high, therefore candidates can now – at least in the financial services area - command raises up to 20 percent on their salaries from last year.

“As the markets rebound, the talent shortage for mid-to-senior-management in particular is becoming increasingly tight,” she added. “All of the financial institutions are competing for the same candidates.”

Looking outside of the financial sector, the survey, which included responses from over 200 Hong Kong-based HR and line mangers, also reported notable increases in several other industries. Accountancy, for example, will likely continue to see increments of 10 to15 percent, as will the insurance sector, particularly for those with local language skills.

Modest gains are also tipped for the legal and construction fields, as well as for those moving into a new job in the IT sector.

The office professional community, on the other hand, despite a high demand for executive and personal assistants, may not see as dramatic a rise in 2011, mostly due to the large pool of candidates on offer.

As a result, companies that don't offer higher rates may soon find it difficult to retain staff – an issue that’s sure to be further aggravated by rising inflation, which the financial secretary said would average 4.5 percent this year.

“I think some companies will definitely struggle to keep up,” says Charnock, adding that “the power has definitely shifted from the employer to the employee."

But while this might be a great time to wrangle more out of your boss, Charnock adds a note of caution on the issue of wage negotiation: “Employers won’t forget,” she says. “The cycle will change again, and I think employees need to be mindful of the fact that it won’t always remain in their favour. Ultimately, it’s the staff members that show longevity through good and bad that sustain the biggest pay rises in the long run.”