Undergraduates in the city are expecting a lower salary after graduation than a year ago, a study has found, with experts attributing the “gloomy” view to an economic slowdown in Hong Kong and around the world.
The survey findings were released shortly after Hong Kong’s economy contracted 0.4 per cent in the first three months of the year compared with the quarter before – the steepest drop since 2011. The city’s latest unemployment rate remained at 3.4 per cent – the highest level in two years.
The study by Universum, an employer-branding company based in Sweden, polled over 5,500 students from six universities in Hong Kong from September last year to January.
The students expected an annual salary of HK$214,934, about HK$18,000 a month. That was a drop of 4.8 per cent compared with the findings of the previous survey, and the biggest since Universum began conducting such studies in Hong Kong in 2009.
Stephen Ching Tang-foon, associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s school of economics and finance, said the pessimistic outlook could stem from the economic slowdown both in Hong Kong and worldwide.
Students are also a choosing a strong culture and attractive working environment over reputation and image when it comes to their preference for employers.
Having a friendly working environment topped a list of 40 employer attributes, while three other factors related to people and culture – leaders who support their development, an employer that enables them to integrate personal interests into their schedule, and a creative and dynamic working environment – also made the top 10.
Along the same thread, 64 per cent of those surveyed selected work-life balance as one of their top three career goals.
Among the countries polled, Hong Kong was only just behind Singapore (66 per cent) in coveting this goal most, while only 49 per cent of those surveyed in mainland China and 42 per cent of those in Thailand picked this factor as one of their top three career goals.
On the other hand, students were less enticed by companies’ reputation and image. None of the employer attributes relating to their reputation and image made it to the top 10. In comparison, one such factor – inspiring management – was included in the list last year.
PLK Ngan Po Ling College student Joy Pamnani, 17, said she would not lower her expected salary after graduation because she had put an enormous money and effort into her studies. “I would expect a greater return amid the economic slowdown and intense competition for jobs. I’m also looking for a harmonious and friendly working environment because it’s not a one-man game. We have to work closely together to do our work more efficiently,” she said.
Nitika Chandiramani, 15, from King George V School was worried that it would be extremely hard to find a job after university. “I already expect a lower salary after graduating from university because there will not be many high-paying jobs with the economic downturn. But I don’t mind earning a salary of HK$18,000 a month – as other students in the survey expected – because there is still a lot to learn and the first job is a starting point.”