Research | Education and human resources | 2015-01-13

Mainland: Land of opportunity for Hong Kong young people?

(13 January 2015) The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre (the Centre) released a survey on the ‘Attitudes of Hong Kong Youth towards Seeking Employment in Mainland China’ today, which reveals that 64.7% of young respondents are unwilling to seek employment in mainland China. Only 4.9% of all respondents show a willingness to seek employment in the Mainland have actually taken concrete action in this direction.

In pursuance of young people’s willingness and factors to consider when seeking employment in mainland China, the Centre has commissioned Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong to conduct the survey among 1,001 local young people aged 18 to 29, who have no working experience in the Mainland. The survey was conducted from 28 August 2014 to 27 September 2014.

“China continues to be a key driving force for global economic growth. In the wake of Chinese economic reforms and opening-up policies, opportunities are everywhere. Pilot schemes under CEPA provide more opportunities and better business environment for Hong Kong people who aspire to a career in the Mainland. Despite an emerging economy in China, the survey unveiled that young people in Hong Kong take individual capabilities into account when considering pursuing career in the Mainland,” said the Centre’s Chairman Dr Donald Li. 

Over half of the respondents who are unwilling to work in the Mainland regarded ‘societal aspects of mainland China’ (50.9%) as their fundamental considerations. 18.1% responded ‘not accustomed to living in the Mainland’, followed by 15.1% ‘holding negative attitudes towards mainland China’. It is found that ‘lack of confidence in the rule of law in the Mainland’ is the major factor deterring local young people from working in the Mainland, accounting for 22.8%.

The Centre’s Director and Convenor of the study Lawrence Lee said, “Career prospects arising from economic development in overseas cities or in the Mainland certainly provide alternatives to young people in Hong Kong. When considering pursuing their career outside Hong Kong, young people need to assess their qualification and work experience. They also need to evaluate the employment market and the level of economic development of a foreign city.”

Among 33.2% of respondents who are willing to seek employment in the Mainland, a plurality of respondents stated ‘better economic prospects of mainland China / China will be the economic centre in the future’ (32.5%), ‘more job opportunities / easier to find suitable jobs in mainland China’ (28.6%), and ‘more attractive salary and fringe benefits in the Mainland’ (21.0%) as main positive reasons.  

The survey also reveals that those with a higher level of education and monthly income are more willing to work in the Mainland. It indicates that 38% of respondents with a degree or above qualification are more willing to work in mainland China, the figure is higher than sub-degree (33.8%) and secondary school (23.7%) graduates. Regarding personal monthly income, it shows that 40.1% of respondents who earn a monthly income of $20,000 or above are willing to work in the Mainland, whereas only 20.1% of those with a monthly income of $10,000 and below are willing to work there. Besides, men (45.3%) and those born in the Mainland (42.4%) are more willing to seek employment in China, when compared to women (23.8%) and those locally born (31.6%).”

“Over the past ten years, a large proportion of Hong Kong people working in the Mainland are Managers, Administrators, Professionals and Associate Professionals. Many of them have attained post-secondary qualification or substantial work experience, which are favourable criteria for Mainland’s employment market,” said Dr Li.

The survey further categorises nine factors into three major dimensions for in-depth analysis, namely personal dimension, ‘China’ dimension and Hong Kong dimension. Personal dimension includes individual capabilities, family and social network; ‘China’ dimension includes economic and political outlook and quality of life in the Mainland; Hong Kong dimension refers to economic and political outlook and quality of life in Hong Kong. Respondents were asked to rate each factor where 10 points denoted the most important.

The result shows top five important factors are ‘Quality of life in the Mainland’ (7.98 points), ‘Political outlook in the Mainland’ (7.49 points), ‘Economic outlook in the Mainland’ (7.39 points), ‘Family’ (7.39 points) and ‘Individual capabilities’ (7.12 points).

It is noteworthy that the average rating of ‘Social network’, a factor that is commonly reckoned as a key element for working in the Mainland, receives only 6.57 points. This factor is ranked the second lowest and the perception of respondents on its importance is mostly divided.

Mr Lee said, “When we look into the rating and assess the perception with push / pull analysis, we can see pull factors from various ‘China’ related aspects, such as quality of life, political and economic outlook, appear to be more determining factors when considering working in the Mainland. While push factors from Hong Kong are often their secondary considerations”.

When respondents were asked on deficiency in knowledge of working in China, their concerns were mainly on laws and regulations (36.7%), work environment (23.3%), proficiency in Putonghua (11.8%), lifestyle and culture (10.2%).

On the whole, some of the local young people do not have a strong inclination to work in the Mainland, which can probably be explained by their lack of distinctive advantages in the employment market. Mr Lee added, “Not surprisingly, the finding shows that a majority of young people are not willing to work in the Mainland. However, I wonder why only 4.9% of respondents who have intention to work in the Mainland have given it a try? Is there any policy that can help those young people who expressed their willingness to pursue a career in the Mainland?”

“The Government should improve their knowledge on laws and regulations, and provide them with more chances to experience the work environment in the Mainland. If Hong Kong youth are willing to equip themselves, step out and pursue their goals with determination, everywhere can be their land of dreams,” Mr Lee suggested.


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