Research | Education and human resources | 2012-06-26

Predicament and Aspirations of Young Professionals in Hong Kong and Beijing

Nearly 60% of the Hong Kong respondents saw keen competition between Hong Kong and Mainland professionals, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre.

In an attempt to understand and compare the working and living conditions of, as well as the obstacles facing young professionals in Hong Kong and Beijing, the study surveyed more than 500 degree holders of the two cities who graduated less than 10 years ago, through in-depth discussions and online questionnaires, between April and July 2011. The study was conducted by the 30S Group, a youth think-tank in Hong Kong.

The findings shed light on the difference in aspirations and attitudes towards career development; professionalism and ethics; cross-boundary working; work-life balance; and participation in public affairs, of young professionals in five sectors, namely academic, media/ public relations, accounting/ finance, architecture/ engineering and legal, in addition to a group of cross-boundary employees.

The Centre’s Chairman Anthony Wu said, “Though public attention has been drawn to the phenomenon of the so-called ‘post-80s’ generation, there has not been enough understanding about the predicament and aspirations of our young professionals, who are indeed important contributors to Hong Kong’s success. Our recent study aims to uncover the missing piece of the ‘post-80s’ puzzle.”

The study found that long working hours were common in working populations in both cities with most respondents (Hong Kong: 67.8% and Beijing: 85.7%) maintaining that the time they spent with their families was not sufficient.

On top of the list of challenges Hong Kong young professionals encountered along their career paths was ‘keen competition’ (35.1%), followed by ‘not prepared for working in the Mainland’ (19.1%) and ‘high property prices/ rent’ (18.7%). As for Mainland professionals, ‘high property prices/ rent’ (33.3%), ‘slow promotion’ (25.2%) and ‘keen competition’ (22.8%) were identified as the three major obstacles they faced.

Though 59.3% of the Hong Kong respondents expressed worry about Mainland competition, only 27.2% of the Beijing professionals considered their Hong Kong counterparts to be competitive threats. Commenting on the survey findings, Mr Wu urged the government to devote additional resources to tertiary education and to enrich young people’s understanding about the latest developments of the Mainland. “In the face of fierce regional and international competition, it is a priority that we make every effort to enhance the competitiveness and capabilities of our young professionals through continuous training and education. We must also continue to strengthen the exchange and interaction between Hong Kong and Mainland professionals,” he said.

According to Rock Chen, Director of Friends of Bauhinia (FoBs) and convenor of the study group on the project, the findings also highlighted a number of areas that warrant public attention, such as the importance of work-life balance. “Flexible office hours, five-day week and indicators for appropriate workload contribute to a better and healthier working environment for young employees, which in turn leads to increased productivity and performance, bringing benefits to employers,” he added.

As for high property prices and rental, Mr Chen believed the government should introduce new measures to enhance the supply of land for residential and commercial development in order to satisfy the diverse aspirations of young people.

Another noteworthy observation of the study was the understanding of professionalism and ethics. More than 50% of Hong Kong respondents and over 60% of Beijing respondents thought that the Hong Kong professionals possessed a higher level of integrity and ethical standards over their Mainland counterparts.

To preserve the city’s competitive edge, the study recommended organisations to continue promoting integrity and ethical behaviours in the workplace, the essential qualities that make Hong Kong tick. At the same time, the government should strive to maintain an open and free society, independent legal system, fair competition environment and clean civil service with a view to sustaining Hong Kong’s competitive edge.

On participation in public affairs, Hong Kong’s young professionals showed a much more active involvement in activities organised by civil society organisations, with around 80% of respondents (Beijing: 33.7%) having taken part in those activities in the past 12 months.

The study found that the Internet has become an indispensable part of daily communications: more than 94% of the young professionals in Beijing and over 80% of those in Hong Kong said they were accustomed to using online communication tools. In this regard, the report suggested the government to make better use of the Internet and adopt a more interactive approach for collecting the opinions of young professionals on policy issues. “In addition to the Internet, it is also recommended that the government organise more exchange forums and encourage young people to take part in public policy making,” Mr Wu said.

Considering that many Hong Kong young professionals working in Beijing found it difficult in seeking help when they encountered problems in the Mainland, the report suggested the Office of the HKSAR Government in Beijing to provide more information on Central Government policies, answers for frequently asked questions, as well as guidelines on housing and children’s education, etc.

On the other hand, to attract and retain cross-boundary professionals, the government should consider streamlining the entry application procedures for their visiting parents, increasing the number of international school places and offering an academic curriculum that can be integrated with that of the Mainland, as means to help their families settle in.

“Enabling Mainland professionals to be socially included in Hong Kong by allowing them to better integrate with professional associations could help enhance their sense of belonging to Hong Kong,” Mr Chen added.


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