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Working in Hong Kong
Your Guide on Jobs and Finding Work in Hong Kong
The heart of the global financial industry and a crossroads between East and West, Hong Kong offers many interesting job opportunities for expats. And while, usually, you do need to have a job offer to start working in Hong Kong, some professions (IT, financial, legal, and other specialists) are eligible for exemptions.
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With many global corporations choosing Hong Kong as their Asian base, there are lots of different employment opportunities in the Hong Kong job market. International companies are usually the best way to find a job in Hong Kong as many local enterprises prefer their employees to have at least basic knowledge of Cantonese. Working as self-employed can also be an option as Hong Kong allows foreigners to establish their businesses here.
Whatever you choose, you will need to earn a lot in order to live well in Hong Kong. And while the average salaries for some professions here are high, you need to make at least double the standard average to live comfortably in Hong Kong.
The average working day in Hong Kong is long and demanding. Working overtime is not uncommon and Saturday is considered a working day. The social security availability depends on the length of your stay in the territories.
How to Get a Job in Hong Kong
As a foreigner who does not speak Mandarin or Cantonese, you might experience some challenges when trying to get a job in Hong Kong. Local companies usually require their employees speak the local languages. However, if you set your eyes on the more internationally-oriented enterprises, your chances of landing a job here will increase.
Job Opportunities in Hong Kong for Foreigners
Hong Kong government runs a program called Talent List that encourages people of certain professions to move to Hong Kong under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme. This might be the best way to get a job in Hong Kong as a foreigner as the applicants of those professions do not need to have an existing job offer to get a visa. The qualifying professions are:
- Asset management professionals (investment analysts and consultants and fund managers)
- Creative industries professionals (recording and mastering engineers (music), cutting and pressing engineers (vinyl), game developers and producers, film industry professionals)
- Data scientists and cyber security specialists
- Dispute resolution professionals and transactional lawyers
- Fintech professionals
- IT experts
- Marine engineers and superintendents of ships
- Marine insurance professionals
- Naval architects
- Waste treatment specialists
The applicants need to meet certain education and experience requirements in order to qualify. This admission scheme allows for 1,000 expats to enter the country annually.
Requirements for Working in Hong Kong
As mentioned in the Visa and Work Permits section of our guide, meeting the qualifications for Hong Kong’s working visa might be tricky. One has to have excellent qualifications as well as exceptional background and experience in order to be granted a visa to Hong Kong. Your potential employer also has to offer working and salary conditions that are standard in Hong Kong and be able to prove that no local was suitable for the position in question.
In order to legally start working in Hong Kong as a foreigner, you will need to apply for a work permit under the General Employment Policy.
Just like in China, networking is very important in Hong Kong and it can lead you to a great job opportunity. Start off by searching social media for networking events near you; you can attend seminars related to your field, or join meetup groups, like InterNations. Bring some business cards with you as those are very important in Hong Kong and be prepared to sell yourself. Communicate, mingle, engage in small talk, and keep your ears out for a possible mention of an opportunity.
How to Apply for a Job in Hong Kong
You can write your resume in English or Cantonese, depending on what works better for you. In most cases, neither will directly influence your chances of finding a job in Hong Kong.
A Hong Kong-style CV should follow the same rules that are recommended for European-style job applications. Your personal information, including your name, address, email address, and phone number, should be on top of your resume. In most cases, it is best to include your age and avoid attaching your photo. You can put your marital and visa status on the resume as well, but it is not necessary.
List the details of your education with your latest achievements coming first. You can add a section for extracurricular activities and special training, but do not elaborate too much.
When adding information about your professional experience, list the positions you have held in reverse time order (with the latest job first), highlighting those which relate to the job you are applying for. Do not forget to add supporting data or illustrative evidence when citing your achievements, and remember to include special skills such as languages or IT. Unlike elsewhere in China, cover letters are common in Hong Kong, so attaching one to your resume can improve your chances of getting a job.
Try to keep your CV concise and fit everything on to one or two pages if possible. You do not have to attach proof of qualifications or references to your application, but you should bring them to the interview.
Begin by collecting information about the company where you would like to land a job. This shows that you are committed to the prospective employer. Try to prepare questions about the company and your new position. Make sure, however, that you do not ask questions which you should know the answer to.
Practice any special skills that you have listed in your resume, such as language skills, especially Mandarin or Cantonese. Your prospective boss may test your abilities to find out if your information is correct and how well you fit the position. You should also prepare answers to typical interview questions, e.g. your greatest strengths and weaknesses. Thus, you will avoid being caught off guard and still make a professional impression.
Dress modestly and neatly. Women should not overdo it with make-up while men should be clean-shaven. Be patient and polite, answer questions with enthusiasm, yet do not interrupt anyone. You might be asked about your willingness to travel and work in Mainland China, so consider your answer before you enter the room.
If you are invited to an interview, remember to bring the following documents:
- Hong Kong ID card (if you have one)
- CV (a few copies)
- documents that prove your academic qualification (original and copies)
- proof of your professional experience (reference letter, letter of resignation etc.)
In addition to that, you should also bring a pen and paper in case you need to take notes and a couple of passport photos. Try to stick to the essentials and do not bring up things that are not necessary. Also, make sure to organize all your documents in a way that would be easy to present to the interviewer.
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Minimum Wage and Average Salary
In Hong Kong, an expat can expect the average salary to be about 120–130 HKD (15–17 USD) per hour or about 240,000 HKD (30,000 USD) annually. However, it does depend on the sector one is working in. Hourly wages for people working in real estate and professional and business services go up to around 140 HKD (18 USD), while workers in personal services can expect an hourly rate of 170 HKD (22 USD).
However, 20,000 HKD (2,560 USD) per month is not considered to be a “good” salary and it will not guarantee you good living conditions. Actually, you have to earn at least double or even triple that to live comfortably.
Compared to these numbers, the minimum wage in Hong Kong is staggeringly low, even though it has been on a rise lately. As of 1 May 2019, the minimum hourly wage in Hong Kong is 37.5 HKD (approx. 5 USD).
Most In-Demand Jobs and How Much They Pay
The most in-demand jobs are in the fields of finance and IT. The median hourly wages for the most sought-after professionals are as follows:
|Median Hourly Wage (HKD)||Median Hourly Wage (USD)|
Self-employment in Hong Kong stands for trading or providing goods and services to people without being someone’s employee. However, no matter what your self-employed venture might be, you will need to register yourself as a sole-proprietor of a business even if you just want to freelance.
The good news is that after taking in consideration for taxation, cost of living, and the ease of starting a business, Hong Kong is a greatplace for self-employed. So, there are many benefits to starting your venture in Hong Kong.
The following steps will serve as a good starting point for anyone who wishes to know how to be self-employed in Hong Kong. Note that these are just the first guidelines that, unfortunately, cannot replace the real expert advice. Make sure to hire a local lawyer, accountant, or consultant to help you.
Step 1: Choose What You Want to Do
You might already know what you are good at and what type of services you wish to provide, however, it is important to know the market you are entering as well.
The finance sector is flourishing in Hong Kong, which is why considering job opportunities in this field is advantageous. If you wish to become a finance advisor or manager, an insurer, or try your hand in stock market trading, Hong Kong is the place to be. Real estate and retail are also on the rise in Hong Kong, so consider your possibilities there as well.
Some of the top self-employed jobs, like graphic design, writing, or online tutoring, are also good options.
Step 2: Choose Your Business Entity
The next thing to figure out is the kind of legal entity you would like to select for your business in Hong Kong. You have the following options:
- Limited company: Most people who have their own business in Hong Kong choose a private limited liability company. Small and medium-sized enterprises are often set up as private LLCs. For it, you need a name, one or several directors, one to 50 shareholders, a company secretary, a (physical) address in Hong Kong, and some capital. There is no legal requirement for minimum capital, but one should start out with at least 10,000 HKD (1,300 USD) in the bank.
- Branch, Subsidiary, or Representative Office: Foreign companies can establish a branch office in Hong Kong. However, the main company is responsible for all debts and liabilities of the Hong Kong branch office. If you wish to avoid this, your best option is subsidiary office. This type of business is considered a separate legal entity. Lastly, representative offices are the option for market research, but they cannot make any legally binding deals or engage in profit-making activities.
- Sole proprietorships are best suited for a small-scale business in Hong Kong with only one owner and freelancers. The venture should be low risk. Unlike the shareholders of a limited company, the sole proprietor is liable for their business with all the personal assets.
- Partnerships: As the name implies, a partnership is a business owned and run by at least two people. However, general partnerships have the disadvantage that you are fully liable for the company and responsible for your partner’s actions. You can invest in a limited partnership as a silent partner, but in that case, you will have no say in the day-to-day running of said company.
Step 3: Choose the Name of Your Business
Choosing the name of your business in Hong Kong can be nearly as important as deciding on a legal entity. Even if you are setting up sole proprietorship in order to freelance, you will still need a business name. Using your full name as the name of the company is probably the best option in this case.
You are free to name your company in English, Standard (not simplified) Chinese, or have two names in both, however, a combination of the two languages in one name is not allowed. You also cannot give your company an offensive name. The addition of “Limited” or “有限公司” at the end of the name, depending on the language, is mandatory.
Once you decide on the name, search the Hong Kong Companies Registry to find out whether the name of your choice is already taken. If it is, your name will not be approved. The name might also be declined if it sounds too similar to an already established company.
Once you have made your choice, you need to get the name approved. Mentioning words like “trust” and “savings” in the name of the company will require specific approval.
Step 4: Make Your Business Official
Once you have figured it all out, you will need to incorporate your company and register the business. You can do so online, though an app, or by going to the local Companies Registry office. You must do it within the first month of starting the business and you have to display your certificate at your place of work.
The fee for incorporation is about 1,700 HKD (220 USD) and a business license for a year will cost you 2,000 HKD (250 USD). The online processing of the documents can take up to two weeks or can be done in about an hour at the local office.
Although business in Hong Kong can be frantic and many people are hard-working and career-oriented, business culture in Hong Kongtakes some patience. Decisions are not made on a whim. Impatience and hostility are often perceived as negative character traits. Small details such as colors or body language can play a role in Hong Kong business culture. Generally speaking, it is important to remain calm and polite, but also committed to doing business.
Hong Kong Working Hours
While most work contracts state normal working hours to be from 09:00 to 18:00, most employees tend to work overtime very frequently. In addition to that, Saturday is a work day in many offices as well. And even though the hours on Saturdays are shorter (morning until lunch time), they still add up. On average people work about 50 hours per week, however, working for 60 hours or more is not uncommon.
Workers in Hong Kong avoid taking vacation days as well and do not have many public holidays either (17 in total).
Hong Kong Workplace Culture: Greetings and General Etiquette
Greet your business contacts with a handshake and a slight bow. Remember to respect the hierarchy that influences Hong Kong working culture. When you are introduced to a group of people, greet the most senior member first. Keep in mind that business can only be successful if you treat your partners with courtesy.
Make sure to always address people with their title and surname (e.g. Doctor Yeoh). You will soon realize that a plenty of businesspeople in Hong Kong use a Western name to make it easier for their Western contacts to address them correctly. In Hong Kong business culture, physical contact is rare, and interactions are rather formal. Therefore, you should try to avoid physical contact beyond the usual handshake.
Hong Kong Workplace Culture: Dress Code
In Hong Kong, businesspeople dress fairly conservatively: black suits, shirts, and ties. Try to stick to your formal attire even during business dinners. Dark, muted colors are usually the best choice for your clothing.
Remember that, in Hong Kong business culture, colors can have different meanings. Red is considered a lucky color while white is a traditional symbol of mourning. Pay close attention to these meanings when choosing the color scheme for the day. Wearing a red tie, a red blouse, or another red piece of clothing might have a positive effect. If you want to accessorize, a fancy watch or an elegant necklace will also help you dress to impress.
Hong Kong Workplace Culture: Meetings and Negotiations
If you want to arrange a meeting with business contacts in Hong Kong, it is always a good idea to make appointments well in advance. Try to avoid scheduling meetings on Christmas, Easter, or around the Chinese New Year, which are all popular times for vacation in Hong Kong business culture. Do not forget to call or email your business partners the day before to confirm your appointment.
During the meeting, greet the most senior business partner first. Then work your way down the hierarchy. Just like with your wardrobe, be sure to stick to a positive or neutral color scheme. Hand out your business cards. One side of your business card should be printed in Chinese, the other one in English.
When giving gifts, wrap them in red or gold colors as it represents prosperity and good luck. When giving flowers, avoid white as it is associated with funerals; do not present clocks or watches as gifts as these have similar connotations. Numbers 4 and 13 are also to be avoided, whereas 3, 8, and 9 are considered lucky. Expensive wines or spirits can be an appropriate gift as well as a luxury fountain pen or some traditional goods from your home country if you are dealing with international businessmen. Keep in mind that you should give and receive gifts with both hands.
In Hong Kong business culture, it is key to be well-prepared for the meeting and to support everything you present with facts and figures. It is just as important to be diplomatic in your choice of words.
“Yes” may not necessarily mean “yes”, just “I hear you” or “I understand what you are saying”. Avoid using a blunt “no” as a refusal or disagreement. Instead, find a more gracious phrasing.
Always remain calm, patient, and modest during negotiations. In Hong Kong working culture, negotiations take a while as everything is discussed in detail and considered thoroughly. Do not pressure your business partners. Give them time to think things through.
Although English is commonly used in Hong Kong business culture, you should try to be respectful of your Chinese business partners. Speak slowly and clearly, and practice (or try to learn) Cantonese. If your Cantonese is not quite there when it comes to professional discussions, you may at least try a bit of small talk or a few polite phrases to show your effort.
Social Security and Benefits
Social security contributions in Hong Kong constitute 5% of an employee’s or self-employed worker’s salary. The rate of minimum monthly earnings to make social security payments fluctuates; at the moment it is around 7,000 HKD (900 USD).
How to Get Social Security in Hong Kong?
Social security numbers do not exist in Hong Kong. You do not need to apply for one or obtain any specific document or card that would guarantee you government’s allowances and benefits. That is because the eligibility for most social securities in Hong Kong depends on the length of your stay. For example, to qualify for old age or disability allowances you have to live in Hong Kong for at least seven years. That means that foreigners can get social security benefits as long as they meet the requirements.
Hong Kong’s Social Security Benefits
The local government offers residents a variety of welfare programs designed to ensure a minimum standard of living. These schemes provide a safety net for people who are not able to take care of themselves anymore. While some benefits are provided by the state, you can get other funds as company benefits as well.
Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) is one of the schemes that was introduced in Hong Kong in 2000. This program is a compulsory pension fund for workers. One can start withdrawing money from their fund once they reach their retirement age (60 for early retirement and 65 for standard).
Hong Kong Social Welfare Department runs many more different kinds of social security programs in the city. They are supposed to take care of those suffering financially due to poverty, age, unemployment, disability, death of a family member, or natural disasters. The most common schemes are as follows:
- The Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA) helps people to raise their income to a certain minimum level if they can no longer provide for themselves financially.
- The Support for Self-Reliance Scheme (SFS) is supposed to assist the unemployed and increase their chances of finding a new job.
- The Social Security Allowance Scheme (SSA) aims to fulfill the needs of the elderly as well as younger people with disabilities.
- The Portable Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (PCSSA) is a sister scheme of the CSSA. However, it is tailored to the needs of older CSSA recipients who choose to retire in Guangdong or Fujian.
- The Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Scheme (CLEIC), the Traffic Accident Victims Assistance Scheme (TAVA), and the Emergency Relief (ER) fund support the victims of criminal offenders, police brutality, traffic accidents, and natural disasters like typhoons, fire, or flooding.
Applying for Social Security in Hong Kong
The selection criteria and application process differ for each of the social security schemes. Sometimes, it depends on your income and assets. Other times it depends on your residence status or the time you have been working for one employer.
To apply for CSSA, for example, one needs to have resided in Hong Kong for at least a year. To be eligible for most of the other programs, however, the time lived in Hong Kong has to be seven years.
Other Social Security Benefits
Aside from the public services for social security in Hong Kong, the Welfare Department provides further schemes to support residents. Its Family and Child Welfare branch, for example, aids impoverished families by means of charitable and trust funds. Such funds offer financial help in emergency situations if other forms of support are not available. The department also runs adoption services, organizes foster care, and provides aid to families and women in various difficult situations, e.g. for survivors of domestic violence.
Other services of the Social Welfare Department include:
- Clinical and psychological services for residents in need of therapy
- Medical services for patients in public hospitals and outpatient clinics
- Services for the elderly, like community or residential care
- Services for people with disabilities, e.g. transport or health protection
- Services for the young, e.g. social workers at schools or counseling hotlines
- Reintegration services for former offenders
If you need more information on a specific welfare service and whether you qualify, please contact the Social Welfare Department.
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Maternity and Paternity Leave
Maternity leave usually begins between two and four weeks before the baby’s due date. In most cases, job security during parental leave is guaranteed.
How Long is Maternity Leave in Hong Kong?
Working mothers in Hong Kong are entitled to ten weeks of paid maternity leave. However, the maternity benefits are only available if they have been employed under a continuous contract for 40 weeks or more and have given prior notice. If either of those criteria is not met, they are eligible for ten-week-long maternity leave without pay.
Paternity Leave and Benefits
Paternity leave for fathers is also available, however, it can only last five days. In order to get those few days off the parent must be employed under a continuous contract and inform his employer about the pregnancy and the leave three months in advance.
The eligibility for paid leave benefits is the same as it is for mothers-to-be. The employer might also require the father to present additional documents about the mother of the child as well as the child’s birth certificate.
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