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Tuesday, July 12, 2016, 23:20

Jobs hard to come by as slowdown drags on

By Lin Wenjie

Jobs hard to come by as slowdown drags on
If you’re planning to job-hop sometime this year, you may have to hold your horses as you could be knocking on the wrong door and at the wrong time, particularly in certain sectors.

The latest human resources survey reveals that Hong Kong employers, bogged down by grim economic prospects and a dwindling pool of tourists, are less willing to hire or add headcount in the second half of this year.

Unsurprisingly, the worst-hit will be the banking, financial services, consumer and retail trades, which have yet to come out of the woods as the local and global economic scene has still to regain its footing.

Hudson — an international talent solutions group specializing in recruitment and talent management — said in its latest report on Tuesday overall hiring sentiment in Hong Kong has continued to flag.

General hiring sentiment has sunk to 15.7 percent for the second half of 2016 — down from 40.8 percent in the first half — driven by weaker hiring intentions in the banking, consumer and retail industries.

However, every cloud does have a silver lining. The report found that while 11.3 percent of the employers polled intend to trim hiring from June to December, another 27 percent may want to bring in new staff — still down by 5 percentage points from a year earlier. The rest, or about 62 percent, plan to stay put and maintain the status quo.

“Despite our findings, it’s not the worst time. The Hong Kong market can best be characterized as stable,” said Siddharth Suhas, regional director of Hudson Hong Kong.

“It’s normal for the net hiring sentiment to drop in the second half. Given the volatility of global markets and uncertainties, most employers prefer to be cautious towards the second half of the year. The weaker sentiment suggests that replacement hiring will continue, but aggressive expansion plans will be fewer and only in specific industries,” he added.

The survey, based on the views of more than 600 employers and middle-to-high level workers, covered five sectors — information technology, professional services, banking and financial services, consumer and retail.

It also found that nearly half of the employers in the information and technology sector are likely to increase their staff strength with the city going all out in the race to be the region’s technology and innovation hub.

In contrast, the banking and financial services, as well as the consumer field, are less likely to boost headcount, while less than 10 percent of bosses in the retail industry are willing to keep their doors open.

“Hong Kong’s consumer sector has been slowing for some two years, with a decline in the number of both local customers and mainland shoppers. Therefore, expansion and the number of consumer roles have been reduced, with a number of companies relocating their headquarters to Singapore,” Suhas explained.

Local and international banks in Hong Kong are in for even harder times. Several prominent lenders, including the Bank of East Asia, UBS and Macquarie Group, began showing their employees the door early last year.

Last month, global ratings agency Moody’s revised its outlook for Hong Kong’s banking business from “stable” to “negative” for the next 12 to 18 months.

For the local retail industry, there’s still no light at the end of the tunnel, with only 8 percent of employers saying they may be interested in hiring more staff in the second half of the year.

Sales of luxury goods, like jewelry, watches and valuable gifts, have continued to head south, having slipped nearly 19 percent in May this year, extending a 16-percent tumble in the previous month, according to the Census and Statistics Department.

Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook — the world’s largest publicly-listed jewelry retailer — said on Monday its same-store sales on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong and Macao had dropped 17 percent and 20 percent, respectively, for the first financial quarter ended June 30, but had improved from the previous quarter.

The group has decided to shut down seven or eight stores in Hong Kong and Macao to cut costs amid a tough market environment. The company’s share price picked up 0.51 percent on Tuesday to close at HK$5.86.
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