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Morning Coffee: Hong Kong’s emerging embrace of contracting

It’s a trend we first spotted back in February: banks in Hong Kong are creating more contract jobs, while finance professionals in the city are slowly shedding their traditional reluctance to contracting. With costing cutting and offshoring afflicting IT and back-office jobs in Hong Kong, fixed-term contracts are appealing because they don’t eat into headcount budgets and they provide risk-adverse banks a way of testing out potential permanent employees.

A new survey from recruiters Morgan McKinley suggests that the life of contractors in Hong Kong is getting cushier. The majority (53%) of contractors were employed on one-year contracts in 2014, compared with just 29% in 2013. The data shows that contractors were more likely to be offered extensions (4% increase year-on-year), or permanent roles (6% rise) in 2014 with last year.

While Hong Kong, unlike London or Sydney, still doesn’t boast many “career contractors” – people who are happy to jump from one short-term assignment to another – the survey suggests that contracting is now a more viable and stable way to eventually find a permanent job. And while contract rates still lag behind mature contracting markets like London (only very senior contractors in Hong Kong are able to out-earn permanent staff), they are at least improving –  20% of contractors earned more than HK$60k per month in 2014, 7% higher than in 2013.

The Morgan McKinley statistics aren’t specific to the finance sector, although over the past 12 months several large recruitment firms in the city, including Robert Walters and Manpower, have been expanding their banking contract teams. Hong Kong’s tentative, developing fondness for contracting is set to continue in 2015, especially in  IT, finance, operations, projects, HR and office support, says Nick Lambe, managing director of Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong.


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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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