Hong Kong’s expat workers enjoy better pay packages as perks including rental and school fee allowances improve

Victor Ting
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Hong Kong’s expat workers enjoy better pay packages as perks including rental and school fee allowances improve

Hong Kong’s expatriate workers took home bigger pay packages in 2018, making the city the fourth most financially attractive place behind Japan, mainland China and India in the Asia-Pacific region for foreign talent to work, a survey has found.

Expats in the city received a 3 per cent pay rise on average, or about HK$61,600 (US$7,902) more in their overall annual pay package last year, according to the survey by ECA International, a human resources consultancy.

Foreign nationals working as middle managers were offered HK$2.16 million (US$276,000) on average, inclusive of benefits such as housing subsidies.

Hong Kong ranked fourth across the Asia-Pacific region in terms of overall pay package, which took into account salaries, benefits and tax treatment, but fell one place to fifth when only salaries were calculated.

“Hong Kong continues to be an attractive place for companies and expats alike, and the growth of expats’ pay packages last year was largely a product of the continuous rise in rental allowance and other benefits, including school fees for their children’s international schools,” Lee Quane, Asia regional director of ECA International, said on Tuesday.

The improvement in 2018 followed a slight shrinkage the previous year.

The consultancy studied data collected from more than 280 multinational corporations employing 10,000 expatriate staff from 160 countries last year, and said the trends continued to look good for 2019.

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The city also compared favourably against regional rivals in the Greater Bay Area when it came to attracting foreign workers as it had a higher quality of life and more international schools, Quane added, referring to Beijing’s blueprint aimed at linking Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities in Guangdong province into an innovation and technology hub to rival Silicon Valley.

Concerns, however, have been raised over the Hong Kong government’s controversial extradition bill, which could make it harder for employers in the city to recruit and retain foreign talent.

Whilst acknowledging similar political worries in places across the Asia-Pacific region, Quane said the ongoing saga could blunt Hong Kong’s competitive edge as its traditional attractiveness for expat workers as a city valuing personal freedoms and the rule of law faded vis-à-vis its regional rivals.

“If it is perceived by people [those freedoms] are coming under greater threat then yes, that could have an impact on Hong Kong’s attractiveness.”

According to the Immigration Department, the number of employment visas issued continued to rise, standing at 41,592 in 2018 – almost 10,000 more than the 31,676 issued in 2014.

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