Hong Kong hiring expectations 7-year low

Only 20 percent of technology firms in the territory plan to grow headcount this quarter, down from 34 percent in last quarter, Hudson survey shows.

Fewer employers in Hong Kong's key business sectors plan to increase hiring this quarter, a new survey by human resource agency Hudson revealed.

According to the Q1 2009 Hudson Report released today, only 18 percent of the 812 Hong Kong executives polled expect to increase hiring in the first quarter of 2009, compared with 32 percent in the previous quarter.

Mark Carriban, Hudson's Asia managing director, said in a press statement: "Hiring expectations are still falling and are now at their lowest since the fourth quarter of 2001--a seven-year low."

Among IT and telecommunications (IT&T) firms, only 20 percent of respondents planned to grow headcount, down from 34 percent in fourth quarter 2008.

Across industries, 11 percent of respondents projected a lower headcount this quarter, compared to only 3 percent in the previous quarter.

One-third, or 33 percent, of respondents said they will not pay higher salaries to attract new managerial hires this quarter. A year ago, only 5 percent gave a similar response.

New managerial hires in the IT&T sector can also expect lower increases. Although 32 percent of respondents had to raise starting salaries by over 20 percent to attract needed talent in the first quarter last year, no one said they would do so this quarter.

According to Hudson, this shift was consistent with the sharp fall in hiring expectations in the IT&T sector.

Across all sectors, only 11 percent of respondents expected to raise salaries by more than 10 percent, compared with 59 percent a year ago.

Freezing headcount is the HR strategy most likely to be implemented in response to the downturn, with 31 percent of respondents choosing to do so.

However, strategic hiring of newly available talent and global headcount approvals were mentioned by 20 percent and 19 percent of respondents, respectively.

While many companies were affected by the falling number of financial IT projects, employers indicated they were still prepared to pay a premium for candidates with both business and technology skills, the report noted.

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