The ready availability of land, labour and other production resources at comparatively low prices provided good reason for Hong Kong manufacturers to relocate their factories across the border. Doing this over the last couple of decades allowed them to keep their businesses competitive. More recently, the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) has given manufacturers further incentives to consider and is helping to attract a new wave of investment.
According to Tyrone Lee, Southern China director for recruitment agency Adecco, the focus is now more on high-tech industries, such as electronics, automotives, pharmaceuticals and medical products. The lower-end garment, textile and shoe business is still important, but a proportion is now being moved to cheaper locations in Cambodia, India and Vietnam. "We should also look at the whole supply chain for the growth industries," says Mr Lee. "This includes logistics, sales and marketing, procurement and distribution, which must be set up to support expansion."
The latest phase of the CEPA agreement will loosen restrictions for Hong Kong enterprises doing business in the mainland. The 10 specific areas include construction, IT, distribution, tourism, and air and road transport. The main advantages for Hong Kong companies lie in the tax benefits granted and the streamlined process for establishing new ventures. "With all the services we can provide for the China market, this will definitely give us a competitive edge over other countries," Mr Lee says.
He adds that new job opportunities are sure to follow. Hong Kong people with their international outlook, high standard of education, language abilities, and knowledge of global business practices should be ideally placed to make the most of these. "Getting the necessary permits or visas to work or to travel on business should not be a problem, so these developments are likely to create many new openings," Mr Lee says.
Candidates considering such opportunities should realise that they may have to take some cut in pay, but the overall experience they gain in China will stand them in good stead for the future. "It is best to think in terms of personal and career growth," Mr Lee explains. "From my observation, expatriates from the US and Europe will take lower pay just to learn how things work in China. They know that two years spent there learning about the culture and business practices will give them extra career options when they return home."
Even so, most mainland companies, especially those in the manufacturing sector, understand the need to pay market rates if they want to attract talent from Hong Kong or overseas, especially those they plan to send overseas to run their operations or to be incharge of overseas expansion in sales and marketing area as the government encourages the "Go Global" policy. "The challenge for employers nowadays is to retain good staff," says Mr Lee. "Job hopping has become much more common in China and employers are recognising that loyalty is something they must be ready to reward."
He points out that people who have gained experience in the manufacturing sector in China can always put that to good use in other areas. For example, they can consider switching to human resources or consultancy work if they are looking for a new challenge.
Mr Lee believes that candidates from Hong Kong will always be in demand with multinationals recruiting for their mainland operations. The basic requirement is usually to have a bachelor's degree and good language skills. That opens the door to roles in manufacturing and, increasingly, to positions in banking and finance in China as well.
- High-end manufacturing industries in South China offer
a good career option for personnel from Hong Kong
- Applicants should focus initially on the range of experience
they can gain rather than the immediate financial rewards
- With solid China experience behind them, it is possible
for professionals to move up the career ladder more quickly
or switch into other areas such as HR or consultancy