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A just-released report from JobsDB, its Hiring, Compensation and Benefits Survey, has predicted that almost two-thirds of companies in Hong Kong plan to bring hiring back to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.

In a further boost to the city’s workforce, salaries are also expected to rise – albeit by an average of a modest 0.8% – although some sectors will fare significantly better.

While in a surprising finding, 42% of employers have hired fresh graduates over the past 12 months, a jump of 5% on the previous year.

Focusing on the first quarter of 2021, 63% of businesses plan to freeze or maintain headcounts, while 14% are considering team expansion with more full-time hires. Significantly, employers believe candidate personalities, work ethics and compatibility with corporate culture should also be a factor – in addition to relevant work experience.

Looking back on 2020, between June and August almost a quarter (23%) of employers admitted to lay-offs during the summer. This was made up of middle management/non-managerial professionals (37%), supervisory/officer ranks (43%) and 42% from frontline staff.

The research also revealed that corporate sales & business development (24%), accounting (18%), admin & HR (12%), finance (12%), merchandising & purchasing (12%) and retail sales (12%) will be the most in-demand job sectors in 2021.

While the industries with the biggest salary increases in 2021 are tipped to be analytics (3.8%), corporate sales & business development” (2.4%), education (2.1%), transportation & logistics (2.1%) and information technology.

A total of 72% of employers distributed bonuses and double-pay in 2020, a 12% drop compared to the previous year, according to the report.  

“We’ve seen a surging demand for digital transformation-related positions, which will experience greater pay rises because their in-demand expertise will help businesses better cater to consumer behaviors online,” said Isaac Shao, CEO of JobsDB Hong Kong.

“Compared to 71% in the previous year, only 48% of employers have provided on-the-job skills training. While we understand that employers have to focus resources on dealing with the operational challenges arising from COVID-19, we hope that more efforts will be invested in staff training in order to sustain healthy business growth,” he added.

An interesting trend to have come out of the pandemic is an apparent shift in attitude by employers. While candidates’ relevant experience remains the top priority for businesses (70%), their personality, attitude and compatibility with the corporate culture is the second most crucial requirement (45%) – ranking higher than expectations for salary and benefits (36%) and academic qualification (32%).  

JobsDB’s survey was conducted in September and involved 436 companies.