Expats working in Hong Kong have long found themselves in one of the more attractive destinations for moving abroad, at least regarding employment. Multinational companies abound, and the city-state's capitalist economy still opens up opportunities for ambitious foreign nationals.

However, job openings in Hong Kong are not as plentiful as they once were, and expats keen on working in the Fragrant Harbour will have to face tough competition from locals and fellow expats alike.

Those who land a job in Hong Kong are usually highly skilled workers in banking and finance. There are also some opportunities for teaching English and volunteering. Degrees from American and British universities are highly respected by the local population, and working in Hong Kong is generally thought to be a positive career move.

That said, immigration procedures can be fairly tedious. To get a work permit, expats will need to find an employer sponsor, meaning that they'll need a solid job offer beforehand. The Immigration Department also needs proof that the applicant will contribute to the Hong Kong economy in a way that a local could not.

Expats accepting a job in Hong Kong should research before negotiating a contract and secure a high enough salary to support themselves and their families. 

Job market in Hong Kong

Working together

While most expats still work in the financial sector, more are employed in other developing business areas, such as management and IT. Opportunities exist for expats with experience in digital advertising, HR, and the legal sphere, while investment banks, in particular, continue to entice many abroad. That said, lucrative expat packages are becoming increasingly rare, aside from those employed in senior positions. 

Having some knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin will help expat job applicants, but some industries don’t require a Chinese language. This is especially true for international corporations.

Finding a job in Hong Kong

Many expats move to Hong Kong with a job contract already in place. The largest and most reputable companies tend to headhunt employees and lure them abroad with high salaries and the promise of luxury living.

That said, even for those who aren't among the lucky international candidates recruited in advance, there are an assortment of avenues that can lead to a good job. There are many recruitment companies, and online job portals are also in no short supply. Companies also tend to advertise positions directly on their websites. Opportunities for application can be found by consulting a few targeted organisations regularly.

Useful links

Work culture in Hong Kong

Office scene

Westerners working in Hong Kong will probably experience some degree of culture shock. For starters, the working week is much longer than they may be used to – it isn't unusual for this to run around or even above 50 hours. The “work hard, play hard” ethos is a hallmark of Hong Kong.

Professionalism is also important in Hong Kong. Many of the city-state's companies have hierarchical structures, which may be challenging for expats from more egalitarian countries. The work culture in Hong Kong is also results-oriented, so expats may find themselves in high-pressure environments. 

Knowing about the finer intricacies of doing business in Hong Kong is also important. For example, giving and receiving business cards with both hands is important, and bosses should always foot the bill for their staff during social occasions.

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