Published 09 May 2018 Category: Compass Tips

What You Need To Know About Working In Hong Kong As An Expat

For job seeking expats having the desire to live the expatriate adventure at the international level.

Home to a large and diverse expat community, Hong Kong is a medley of cultures with an economy that’s developed at breakneck speed over recent years. A British colony until 1997, this special administrative region of China remains very popular with expats. In addition to the region’s thriving economy, residents benefit from a good healthcare system, excellent schooling and great travel opportunities.

Quick Facts
Main languages: Mandarin, Cantonese & English
Population: 7.3 million
Political system: Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China
Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)
Time: GMT +8
World’s freest economy
One of the safest places in the world

What’s the draw?

  • A fascinating interplay between the exotic past and the efficient and technically advanced developments of modern-day life.

  • A safe environment with a low crime rate where foreigners are a part of everyday life and expats are an accepted part of the city.

  • A place where you can quite literally party all night long in the streets of the city and then rest and recuperate the following day in the natural haven of one of the outlying islands.

Working in Hong Kong as an Expat
Working in Hong Kong - the beating heart of Asia’s money market, is a stepping-stone for expats to explore better career paths and leverage investment opportunities in East Asia - the fastest growing economic region and the largest continental economy in the world.

However, working overseas is not always as easy as just flying to someplace and finding a job like you would back in your home country. There are visa issues, work permits, and language barriers to think about. Moreover, there are other logistical questions, like where do you look for a job, and what kind of work can you expect to find?

General Overview of the Hong Kong Job Market
There are still many work opportunities for expatriates, but the expat Hong Kong job market has become tighter in recent years due to increased work permit regulations and competition from local and mainland Chinese employees. Allaying fears of negative effects of Hong Kong’s return to China, the economic boom on the mainland has spilt over to Hong Kong; pushing up rents, boosting construction and the stock market.

Previously foreign workers walked straight into jobs and often didn’t need a visa to work. Today, companies have to prove that the job cannot be filled out by a local employee and instead, obtain an employment visa for their foreign employees. This administrative hassle tends to be avoided by most companies if they can find a local employee instead.

Increasing competition has also affected compensation. In the past, expats in Hong Kong received a range of perks and benefits, many now just get a basic salary. Some companies, especially investment banks, still offer generous packages that include medical insurance, accommodation, paid annual holidays to the home country and private education for children. Other perks include luxury apartments, a car and driver, entertainment allowances and club memberships. Today, most of these deals are restricted for short assignments or very senior positions.

These days it isn’t uncommon for expats to be offered a local package that often does not include housing, medical insurance, education or annual home leave. However, there are companies that still offer generous packages but these deals are restricted for short assignments or very senior positions.

Jobs In Hong Kong For Expats – A look at what’s trending

Finance and commerce related services are key industries in Hong Kong, most expats in Hong Kong work in financial services sector since 70 out of the world’s largest 100 banks have offices in Hong Kong. That being said, the main sectors of work in Hong Kong for expats are: Finance, Aviation, Accountancy, Sales and Marketing, Media and Publishing, Telecommunications, Human Resources, IT and FinTech, Engineering, Logistics, and Law.

To be competitive in the job market, expats looking to work in Hong Kong should be able to demonstrate a high degree of professionalism, experience and specialist knowledge. If not, it may be hard to find a position that cannot be filled by a Hong Konger or a Chinese employee.

Some steps you can take to find a job Hong Kong

  1. Search job boards before you leave.

  2. Contact expat groups before you leave.

  3. Apply directly through a company website

  4. Bring copies of your resume, recommendations, and any other professional certificates.

  5. Get a business card.

  6. Go to as many networking events as possible (or do it online).

  7. Apply for jobs from Hong Kong job boards.

Pro Tip: Perhaps the easiest way to work in Hong Kong is to request for a transfer to the HK branch office.

Resources for Expats


Jobs in Hong Kong
Indeed HK
Native English Teacher (NET) Scheme

Recruitment Firms
Specialises in recruiting executive professionals in investment banking, securities and asset management. Eban has offices in London, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Egron Zehnder
Specialises in executive and management level search in finance, technology, legal, human resources, communications and environment industries.

Lewis Sanders
Specialises in recruiting legal and compliance professionals.

Connected Group
Specialises in the legal, banking, consumer, healthcare and manufacturing industries and offers innovative placement solutions. They also offer project recruitment and consulting services, which may appeal to expats who would like flexibility in work-life balance. With three consultancy services, Connected Group for executive search, Connected Pro for project based recruitment and outsourcing and Connected HR, this agency has a flexible and creative approach to building sustainable relationships with clients of all industries.

Michael Page
Michael Page has a large repository of postings from legal to luxury sales and in Hong Kong its consultants are salaried-based and not commission-based, making every assignment thorough and objective.

Robert Half
Robert Half focuses more on the banking, accounting and IT industries.

Specialises in recruiting executive professionals in engineering, business admin, IT, accounting and finance, construction and property and more.
Visa Info – Making It Legal
For expats considering relocating to Hong Kong for work, advice and the most up to date information on visa requirements and regulations can be obtained by visiting the Hong Kong Immigration Department here.
Pro Tip: It’s always best if you secure a job beforehand.

Language Requirements In Hong Kong
Language is another important requirement: Fluency in written and spoken Mandarin and English is an advantage - though industries such as banking & financial services and legal, business is generally conducted in English.

Today Hong Kong is home to one of the world’s biggest international trading posts, a powerful manufacturing base and a thriving financial center. It attracts expats from all over the world and the city has become a melting pot of cultures and landscapes, a vibrant metropolis where people from all backgrounds live side by side.

Key Findings (Source: HSBC Expat Explorer)

  • 68% of expats in Hong Kong agree that it is a good place for career progression.

  • 63% believe their time working there will enhance their future job prospects when they move on to a different country or back home.

  • 62% expats living in Hong Kong say they earn more than they did in their home country.

  • On average, expats earn nearly USD170,000 per year in Hong Kong, well above the global average of USD97,000.

  • 56% of expats say living there has accelerated their progress towards making long-term savings and investments

  • 54% of expats living in Hong Kong report that they are able to save faster towards their retirement.

  • 53% of expats in Hong Kong agreeing that it is a good place to start or grow a business, compared with 38% globally.

Hong Kong is most certainly a city of contradictions. It is a place where aficionados can move from Michelin Star restaurants to dai pai dong street-side food stalls in just a few steps; commuters’ daily journeys involve state-of-the-art underground railways networks, mountain side escalators and rickety old trams and ferries; crumbling tenements of residential buildings sit unassumingly next to ultramodern high-rises and elderly men push their over laden carts up steep hills as Ferraris roar by.

But perhaps most surprisingly of all, Hong Kong presents expatriates with much more than the thriving city life that it is touted as. A little known side of Hong Kong is the surrounding countryside parks and outlying islands where hiking, water sports, camping and barbeque pits can be enjoyed. People are often surprised to hear that less than one quarter of the land in Hong Kong is actually developed, leaving a huge area of natural beauty to be explored and enjoyed.