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Hong Kong facing possible exodus of top talent due to protests

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Some of Hong Kong’s most sought-after talent are adopting a wait-and-see approach. While others are considering leaving the city altogether for plum roles in Singapore, as Hong Kong’s ongoing civil unrest continues to have an impact.

There have been reports by recruiters in Hong Kong that those with in-demand skills considering relocating to Hong Kong are having second thoughts, while job seekers in the city are enquiring about opportunities elsewhere.

“I have definitely seen people not take roles because they or their partners from overseas have decided not to look at Hong Kong as an option, questioning its stability,” a consultant, who works for a legal recruitment firm in Hong Kong, told the SCMP, adding the civil unrest – which has been ongoing since June – has reduced the available talent pool.

“Absolutely I see a massive slowdown,” said Elaine Khoo, a Hong Kong recruiter in the human resources sector. During one of the most heated protests in July, she did not receive one reply for a job advert she had posted online, which “has never happened in 12 years of recruitment”, she told the newspaper.

Khoo added that to her knowledge, two companies had “indefinitely” pushed back the starting date of new roles, as they were unable to guarantee the safety of their employees.

“Roles being pushed back is not common. These three months, they have been pushed to indefinite,” she said.

Added Tom Bury, managing director for investment bank recruitment firm Odin Partners: “It is a fair reflection to say it is getting to a position that people are saying if this is going to continue, and there isn’t a resolution, then maybe we should go to Singapore. The only thing that won’t change is that people need to be in Hong Kong for business in China.”

He observed there has been an increased tendency in recent weeks for some candidates to ask if Singapore was an option due to concerns about safety for their families.

“People are starting to mull over if this is going to continue, do I need to think about a contingency,” he added.

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