To encourage young people to seize opportunities in the Greater Bay Area, the Chamber partnered with independent think tank MWYO on the HKSAR Government’s GBA Youth Employment Scheme. The research survey revealed that evaluations by both employers and employees towards the Scheme were consistently positive, with 90% of employees saying it allowed them to “understand more about the GBA” and “gain more work experience.”
Introduced by the HKSAR Government in early 2021, the Scheme encourages companies operating in both Hong Kong and the GBA to hire local university and tertiary institution graduates to work in the GBA's Mainland cities. As of late 2022 and early 2023, employees were nearing the completion of the pilot Scheme, while some had already completed it. To assess the impact, MWYO launched the study in four phases.
The online surveys were held from November to December 2022 for Phase 3. The Chamber sent the online employer questionnaire to its members, who distributed it to their employees. The Chamber also arranged in-depth interviews with the employers, and received responses from 88 employees and 28 employers. The number of employee responses is estimated to be 13% of all employees hired and still working under the Scheme (around 700). The survey findings were based on 70 employees who had returned the questionnaires both in Phase 2 and Phase 3, and 13 employers who reported that they had hired successfully under the Scheme.
A 'useful' scheme
As the employee respondents found the Scheme useful, nearly 70% (68.1%) said they would introduce their friends to join. The vast majority of employee respondents agreed that the Scheme allowed them to "understand more about GBA Mainland cities" (92.8%) and “gain more work experience“ (89.9%). Nearly all employee respondents said they could adapt to the daily life arrangements (98.5%).
Seeking desirable jobs
Interestingly, even though most employee respondents thought they had competitive advantages over their Mainland counterparts, those not planning to stay in their current job did not feel confident about finding a desirable job in GBA Mainland cities in the short run, likely due to the fact that some of them might lack relevant professional and adaptability skills compared to their Mainland counterparts. Also, if the employee respondents were unfamiliar with the tax and subsidy arrangement in GBA Mainland cities, they expected to encounter difficulties when seeking a job. It was also not easy for them to find employment that could meet their expected salary, as the average salary for most jobs in GBA Mainland cities is lower than that in Hong Kong.
New employment arrangement
More than 90% of the companies agreed that the Scheme met their expectations. A vast majority of the companies reported having a new employment arrangement with their employees, with many of them retaining all employees. Some of the companies gave employees hired under the Scheme permanent contracts from the beginning. Most importantly, nearly all of the companies were willing to offer a salary of more than HK$18,000 plus other allowances, which showed the Scheme could be beneficial to the company‘s long-term HR strategy. However, according to the employee survey results, just under 40% got new employment contracts, lower than reported by the companies, showing a lack of communication between companies and employees that needs to be resolved.
Upgrade to GBA talents scheme
The monthly salary allowance should be increased in order to attract more young people. The Government should increase the allowance for different educational attainment while holding employers' contribution constant at HK$8,000 each. If employers are able to hire more experienced employees, they should offer a higher salary. For example, HK$20,000 for experienced employees with a bachelor's degree (the allowance from the Government being HK$12,000/month), and HK$23,000 for those with a master‘s degree (the allowance from the Government being HK$15,000/month).
Expand eligibility requirement
The Government should allow people who have graduated within the past five years to apply for the Scheme instead of the current three, thus allowing more youths to join. This also gives employers a better chance of hiring suitable employees.
Provide services to employees directly
Based on current support services provided by different government departments and institutions, the Government should consider delegating suitable institutions to provide support to employees to help them adapt to life on the Mainland.
Dr Law Cheung-Kwok, Special Advisor at MWYO, said: “The Phase 3 report provides a more complete picture of the effectiveness of the Scheme. We believe that it has been quite successful overall. The Scheme was conducted during the COVID-19 peak and stringent measures, and it is remarkable that the majority of employees were able to complete the Scheme and received offers of continual employment.“
He added that both evaluations by employers and employees were consistently positive. Employees claim to have gained a better understanding of GBA Mainland cities, and were more willing to continue working or studying in the Mainland.
“What is even more encouraging is that most employers are satisfied with the performance of their employees and will continue to participate in the regularised Scheme, which proves that both employers and employees can benefit from the Scheme,“ he said.
Phase 4 of the study was conducted in April 2023, about three months after the conclusion of the pilot Scheme, to evaluate its effectiveness on employees‘ career development and for better understanding of the arrangement of employees after completion of the pilot Scheme.