The Greater Bay Area ("GBA") is now a prime destination for talented individuals and growing businesses seeking to pursue new opportunities. Against this backdrop, we expect to see a higher degree of mobility across the region. As such, how can the "talent advantage" be maximized?
The GBA talent landscape
Two industries, in particular, currently lead the GBA's economic development: financial services and information technology.
Employers in the GBA have access to a deep pool of financial professionals from diverse educational backgrounds. A significant proportion of these employees possess overseas learning experience and a master's degree or higher. Banks and insurance companies, in particular, are actively recruiting in various fields:
- Those with skills across project management, sales & marketing, and product development are in demand.
- Insurance companies are establishing sales teams in mainland GBA cities, creating cross-border employment opportunities.
- There are also job vacancies for legal professionals whose knowledge is critical to navigating regulatory compliance.
The age profile of GBA technology professionals – especially in Shenzhen – is generally younger than similar hubs elsewhere, including San Francisco or Sydney. That said, it does not automatically mean that these specialists are less experienced. Rather, they are often more passionate, energetic, and highly motivated to develop their skills and careers.
There is growing evidence that GBA cities are now far more attractive for digital talent than China's other digital economy centers:
- Research found 92% of firms with a strategic plan for the GBA say they plan to invest in talent over the next year.
- Demand is not limited to one or two cities, with broad-based growth in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, and Foshan.
- In terms of specific roles, solution architects, sales directors, data scientists, and digital marketers are highly sought-after positions.
- Aside from Shenzhen and Guangzhou, those cities with a previous focus on manufacturing, such as Huizhou and Dongguan, are gradually shifting to develop advanced technologies, telecommunications and financial services.
Government initiatives to encourage talent
To promote GBA job opportunities for Hong Kong graduates, the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme was introduced in 2020. Enterprises with operations in both Hong Kong and the GBA can now employ graduates under Hong Kong law and place them in Mainland cities of the GBA.
- The program offers graduates a minimum monthly salary of HK$18,000.
- Enterprises are given $10,000 each month for the graduate employed over an 18-month period.
- Out of the 2,000 newly created openings, 700 have been earmarked for innovation and technology job roles.
As an aside, and to help offset higher individual income tax rates, the 2019 Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (the "Outline Plan") includes a tax subsidy scheme for high-end talent, both from Hong Kong and elsewhere, who work in the GBA. The plan also offers Hong Kong residents more flexible purchase options should they wish to invest in a mainland property and provides their children with equal access to local education.
Recruitment techniques and recommendations
For those enterprises considering entry to the GBA market, here are a few factors to consider:
- Social media as a promotional tool
Hong Kong companies can explore social media channels like Wechat and Weibo to promote their brand and job opportunities. Also, publicizing employer initiatives, such as those related to diversity and inclusion, may help a company stand out, given these two themes, in particular, are attractive to prospective candidates.
- Non-local job boards and external experts
External job boards should be considered when looking for talent in the GBA area. The most popular platforms for general positions are LinkedIn and 51jobs. Meanwhile, Zhaopin and YJBYS target graduate roles. Companies can also engage outside experts to enhance their recruitment drives. Exposure to candidates can also come via career events and collaborations with local universities.
- Incentives, compensation, and benefits
Companies need to perform thorough research to understand what top candidates want most from an employment package. Human resources departments can provide incentives, including housing subsidies, cash bonuses or stock options. Non-monetary benefits are attractive: personal coaching services and a clear career progression path are often essential criteria to consider. As the market becomes globalized, companies have the option to explore international openings through internal transfers.
- The competitive edge of each city
To leverage their existing strengths, each of the four core cities (Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou) has been assigned a focus area in the Outline Development Plan. For instance, Hong Kong continues to serve as the international financial, transportation and trade center. As a special economic zone, Shenzhen is now developing into a global innovation and creativity hub. The city is already home to tech giants like Tencent and Huawei. Understanding each location's nuances helps build a strategy that takes advantage of the GBA's talent pool.
Integration is key to winning the talent war
The GBA presents fertile ground for companies but winning the talent war is essential. Enterprises should adopt an integrated approach with a "Southern China regional perspective". This will help coordinate the operational and human-resource aspects of Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. If businesses intend to tap into local talent pools in other GBA cities, this will require a strategic people plan that accounts for both the benefits and risks of this unique megalopolis.