Hong Kong to Singapore job moves have run out of steam
Financial institutions have largely ended their risk-mitigating relocations of staff from Hong Kong to Singapore, which began about 18 months ago in response to the former city’s tough quarantine rules and uncertain political environment. That’s according to senior Asia-based recruiters from financial institutions who attended a recent eFinancialCareers round table.
“Most firms had a target for de-risking Hong Kong, and they’ve achieved that now,” said a round table delegate, who like his counterparts at the event asked not to be named in this report. “We’re not looking to actively relocate jobs anymore, and a lot of new roles are now advertised in both markets,” added another recruiter.
Meanwhile, round table delegates in Hong Kong expect to receive more applications from overseas candidates following Hong Kong’s decision to axe its stringent hotel quarantine rules, and the recent announcement by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee that he wants to “trawl the world for talents”.
However, it will take time for professional immigration to reach pre-Covid levels. “It’s not as easy as saying, ‘we’ve opened up the border, let’s bring these people in’. Many foreign candidates want to wait a bit longer before deciding on Hong Kong. They’re still uncertain about its recovery as a financial centre,” said a delegate. Moreover, Hong Kong’s border with mainland China, traditionally a major source of talent, is yet to reopen.
Another panelist agreed that attracting foreign candidates won’t be straightforward in the short term. “But there will eventually be a bounce-back. Hong Kong still has massive advantages as a connector to China and a hub for North Asia. I’ve spoken to people who moved from HK to the UK and aren’t happy there because of the weather and the high tax. They will start to come back,” he said.
Singapore is opening up to overseas candidates at a much faster pace than its northern rival. From September 1, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MoM) made it easier to process Employment Pass (EP) applications, including by restoring the Fair Consideration Framework’s local job advertising duration to the pre-pandemic level of 14 days. The standard processing time for EP applications has also been reduced from three weeks to 10 days. These changes are now being felt on the ground, according to Singapore-based round table delegates.
“For my bank, we’ve seen a nice relaxation in bringing in foreign talent – not for the sake of it, but when they’re the right people. I hear that some firms are still getting a hard time from MoM, but overall it’s become easier to get people into Singapore recently – and that’s a positive change,” said a panelist. If talent flow into Singapore improves into 2023, it could help lessen the talent shortages that are currently besetting the country.
The panelists at the eFinancialCareers round table agreed that the Asian job market in financial services remains candidate led. “Talent availability in Singapore and Hong Kong has shrunk, and that’s a big issue everyone across the industry is facing,” said a delegate. “There are also a lot of counter offers going on, which reflects this candidate-driven market,” said another attendee.
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