Diversity in Hong Kong - 5 facts every employer should know

By Robert Half on 10 January 2023
Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes

Today’s modern workforce is a diverse collective – and Hong Kong is no different.

Professionals working in the country increasingly represent different generations, races, religions, genders and nationalities.

If you’re an employer, here are five facts that you should know about workplace diversity in Hong Kong – and how you can prepare for it.

1. Millennials will soon constitute a majority of Hong Kong’s workforce

As one of Asia’s powerhouse economies, Hong Kong’s emerging generation will play a major part in contributing to the global workforce.

According to an extensive study by PwC on millennials and the workplace, millennial employees in Hong Kong hold different workplace values than their predecessors.

For instance, 82% will choose employers whose corporate values matched their own, while 20% consider the company’s record when evaluating employers.

To tap into the potential of Hong Kong’s millennials, employers should assess if their workplace values will attract this emerging group of professionals.

Offering more direct feedback on their progress, prioritising professional development and growth, and encouraging mentoring between junior and senior employees will help attract millennials to work in your company.

2. Hong Kong professionals still experience age discrimination at work

Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on workplace discrimination research conducted by the local Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The research found that one in three Hong Kong professionals faced age discrimination in the job market.

Professionals with longer careers are vulnerable - 78 percent stated that those over 60 were most affected.

This phenomenon affects Hong Kong’s ageing workforce according to a report by CNBC: 35 percent of Hong Kong’s population is projected to be over 65 years old by 2050.

According to the above EOC survey, a majority of Hong Kong’s senior employees wish to continue working past retirement age.

To embrace age-based workplace diversity for senior professionals, Hong Kong employers can introduce policies of flexible working hours that accommodate different life stages as well as emphasise mentoring in the workplace.

3. The growth of women in leadership positions has been stagnant

CNBC reported that that female representation in corporate leadership was the same - 11.1 percent – in 2015 and 2016, continuing a trend of slow growth since 2009.

There are several reasons for this phenomenon. However one such reason is that with only 10 weeks of legally mandated maternity leave, Hong Kong’s working mothers tend to feel discouraged from re-joining the workforce. This is backed by government statistics showing lower labour participation rates for women with families.

To empower Hong Kong’s female professionals to lead in the workplace, employers can offer additional days off for maternity and paternity leave.

Employers can also encourage working Hong Kong mothers to go for more flexible training programs to prepare them for leadership roles.

For instance, half-day and virtual training can equip working mothers to lead without needing them to take too much time away from their families.

4. Language barriers creates challenges for job opportunities

Research done by Hong Kong ethnic minority advocacy group Unison (reported by the South China Morning Post) shows that only 1 in 5 job advertisements cater to non-Chinese speakers, while 39 percent of job ads had all or some vital information only in Mandarin.

With Chinese and the Cantonese dialect being the main business languages in the region, this indirectly excludes Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities from consideration for most jobs.

Hong Kong employers can play their part in ensuring workplace diversity for minorities in two ways: by relaxing language requirements in jobs where Chinese and Cantonese may be ‘nice-to-know’, as well as invest in second language classes for minority employees to master these two languages.

5. Hong Kong enjoys a reputation as an expat-friendly career environment, but maintaining that reputation is a challenge

According to HSBC’s global Expat Explorer survey this year, Hong Kong was ranked at 13th place for being the best place for expats to settle and earn a living. In the survey, Hong Kong expats cite competitive incomes and opportunities for career progression as their reason for staying in the country.

However, there are several challenges that can potentially discourage expats from working in Hong Kong. For one, global urban consultancy firm Demographia lists Hong Kong in its 2016 International Housing Affordability Survey as the country with the least affordable housing market in the world - with average flat prices at 19 times the gross annual median income.

Hong Kong also has the longest working hours in the world according to The Standard, with expats ranking Hong Kong at 59th place (out of 67 countries) for work life-balance in the Working Abroad Index by InterNations, a global expatriate online network.

Employers can help Hong Kong stay attractive to professional expats by offering benefits in line with their needs, such as relocation and housing assistance upon accepting their job offers and having more flexibility in working hours.

Are you ready for workplace diversity in Hong Kong?

As Hong Kong’s society evolves with global change, the diverse workplace is – and will be - Hong Kong’s new normal.

Employers in this city need to embrace and place themselves at the forefront of workplace diversity efforts, acting as agents of change for the betterment of the island territory.

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