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Hong Kong losing its lustre?

17 June 2011

SINGAPORE: More senior-level professionals in Hong Kong are eyeing Singapore as their preferred work destination, according to global recruitment agency Ambition.

During the first five months of the year, it came across about 320 candidates “expressing interest in relocating to Singapore from Hong Kong” – a 58-per-cent increase from about 200 candidates in the same period last year.

Most of these candidates have, on average, about five to six years of work experience and are at director level.

Adding that these candidates “aren’t just seeking a better job”, Ambition Singapore managing director Paul Endacott said: “The people we are talking to are citing a growing range of negative issues in Hong Kong, including the lack of places in international schools.”

He added: “Pollution is constantly on their growing list of concerns but they also have issues with the cost of living – specifically associated with accommodation – the size of the accommodation they can typically afford and quality of life, particularly for families.”

CIMB-GK regional economist Song Seng Wun noted that senior professionals with families would prefer Singapore as it is “more family-friendly”.

Said Mr Song: “But the opportunities for banking and finance in Hong Kong are much bigger … young professionals starting out may not mind a lower quality of living in order to reap these opportunities.”

In the first three months of this year, Singapore’s gross domestic product overtook Hong Kong’s – a trend that the Bank of America Merrill Lynch had said last month would continue for the rest of the year, helped by strong gains in the Singapore dollar against the greenback, to which the Hong Kong dollar is pegged.

Mr Song noted the region’s pull factor as well: Economies in South-east Asia are expanding rapidly, creating plenty of job openings in Singapore.

Concurring, DBS economist Irvin Seah said: “Singapore is smack in the middle of South-east Asia … This has led to an increase in jobs here, which is a very attractive proposition coupled with the stable geopolitical environment and social stability here.”

However, Mr Seah noted that the tightening of Singapore’s immigration policy “could pose a challenge for international talent looking to relocate to Singapore”.

While Mr Song felt that Hong Kong’s proximity to China meant that it will remain an attractive economy, Mr Seah said this was a double-edged sword.

Said Mr Seah: “There are several up-and-coming Chinese cities which are very competitive and pose a challenge to Hong Kong as a gateway to the China market.” – TODAY

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