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Although Hongkongers can expect a higher starting salary than those in Macau and cities in Guangdong, their annual wage growth is much slower than those in Guangdong, it was revealed in a recent survey by Hong Kong Baptist University on salary and benefits in greater bay area (GBA) cities. 

Even before the pandemic, between 2017-2019, the annual salary growth of Hongkongers fluctuated between 3.6% and 4.3% on average, while salaries for workers in Guangdong province climbed from 4.1%-5.5% to 5.4%-6.8%. 

This year, the overall actual salary increases for all levels of employees in Hong Kong ranged from 2.2% to 2.4%, which is the lowest in four years. The overall projected salary growth for 2021 will continue to fall, ranging from 1.7% to 1.8%.

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Table 1. Average salary increase in Hong Kong

Even though employees in Guangdong can expect a smaller wage growth this year (4.4-5.0%) than the year before (5.4-6.8%), their salary adjustment in the coming year is likely to bounce back to 5.2%-5.6%. 

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Table 2. Average salary increase in Guangdong cities

Starting salary

Between Hong Kong, cities in Guangdong and Macau, the starting salary of this year's fresh graduates in Hong Kong is the highest across all sectors. Additionally, the average starting salaries of all fresh graduates in Hong Kong this year are higher than the year before. 

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Table 3. Average starting monthly salary of fresh graduates in Hong Kong

The lowest average starting salary was recorded in sales function at HK$11,000 for graduates of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) while the highest figure reported was an average of HK$17,587 in engineering for graduates with a master’s degree or above. 

In contrast, the average salaries of new graduates in Guangdong cities decreased compared with 2019. Master’s degree or above holders in the research and development (R&D), production and engineering functions were offered the highest monthly starting salaries at 8,239 yuan, 7,698 yuan, and 7,438 yuan respectively (about HK$9,500, HK$8,900, HK$8,600). 

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Table 4. Average starting monthly salary of fresh graduates in Guangdong cities

 When it comes to education qualifications, having a master degree does not guarantee a higher starting salary in Hong Kong. For the IT sector, bachelor degree holders even earned more than master degree holders in their first job. Nevertheless, those with a master's degree in marketing and HR and admin sectors brought home HK$1,212 and HK$1,474 more than bachelor's degree holders respectively.

In Guangdong cities, having a master degree matters as it can bring degree holders significantly more money in their first job than others. The surge ranges from 952 yuan (about HK$1,100) to 2,708 yuan (about HK$3100), depending on the industry. 

Among three regions, a bachelor degree graduate majoring in HR can obtain the highest starting salary in Hong Kong (HK$14,642), followed by Macau (MOP$13,000, which is about HK$12,600), and Guangdong cities (4,875 yuan, which equates to HK$5640).


Benefits

The survey shows different benefits offered to different levels of staff in Hong Kong, including leaves, education, housing, retirement protection, medical, insurance and meals. The proportion of organisations offering full paid “birthday leave” (1 day) to all levels of employees was higher than that of last year. The number of days of “examination leave” offered to different staff levels ranged from 3.3 to 3.7 days, which is fewer than that of last year (3.7 to 4.2 days).

Almost two thirds (65%) of Hong Kong employers indicated that they offered incentive schemes to employees. “Variable bonus” was the most popular scheme, followed by “guaranteed bonus”. The guaranteed bonus offered to different staff levels was 1 month whereas variable bonus offered ranged from 0.4 to 1.7 months. “Company’s business performance” was the most important criterion for providing a variable bonus.

In Guangdong cities, the guaranteed bonus offered by organisations to different staff levels ranged from 2 to 2.8 months whereas discretionary bonuses ranged from 4.3 to 4.8 months. Other benefits offered to different levels of staff included housing, meals, medical, insurance and fully paid sick leave. The proportion of organisations offering various kinds of benefits to all levels of staff were quite similar to those of last year.

About three quarters of employers indicated that they offered incentive schemes to employees. Most of the respondents indicated “company’s business performance” as the primary criterion in offering incentives. “Career promotion” and “training” were two commonly adopted incentive schemes offered by the organisations.

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