Hong Kong pay rise higher than Singapore

China Daily
12 November 2003

Hong Kong outperformed Singapore in terms of “real” rises in salaries. Meanwhile, the Chinese mainland ranks fourth in leading salary increase trends in the Asia Pacific region.

This was revealed in a survey conducted by transnational Hewitt Associates Consulting on 991 foreign, locally-owned, and joint-venture companies between July and September this year in 11 markets.

On the mainland, employees have continued to enjoy average salary increases ranging from 6.7 to 7.3 per cent, though those in senior top management are less.

The company’s Shanghai-based Frank Johnson said this at a news conference to announce the findings in Hong Kong yesterday.

“For people who have mastered Putonghua and possess good management skills, there is a good prospect for them on the mainland,” he said.

Of the 185 mainland organizations participating in the survey, 7 percent reported salary freezes in 2003, and the percentage is expected to be 3 per cent for 2004, he added.

China’s rank came behind India, the Philippines and South Korea in the survey.

As for Hong Kong, the survey found that the average salary increase for 2003 ranges from 1.3 to 1.5 per cent for various levels of staff.

Singapore appears to be nominally higher at 2.1 to 2.4 per cent. But Johnson said: “If you take inflation into account, Hong Kong is still enjoying higher real increases.”

Johnson’s view ran against an earlier study that forecast wage freezes in many Hong Kong companies next year. He forecast a rosier picture, with pay increases across all employee groups for 2004.

Projected average increases would range from 1.3 to 1.7 per cent.

A total of 39 per cent of the surveyed companies in Hong Kong have reported salary freezes this year, but the percentage is expected to fall to 32 per cent next year.

In the United States, findings of the 1,276 participants show that salary increases have hit record lows in 2003, though slightly higher projections for 2004 have been reported.

More pessimistically, Hewitt’s survey found that variable pay spending of US companies surveyed had dropped off for the first time since it gained popularity in the 1990s.

Johnson said, “Eight per cent of US companies surveyed reported salary freezes for this year, and only 2 per cent are expected to take this type of action next year.”

Overall, employers throughout the Asia Pacific have continued to keep a tight rein on the purse strings in 2003 as salary increases remained at low levels.

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