Guide to Moving Your Job Abroad: Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions (HKSAR) of the People’s Republic of China and one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with over 7 million people residing within a land mass of only 1,104 km2.
Enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, Hong Kong is made up of over 200 outlying islands, including Lantau Island, Hong Kong Island and Ap Lei Chau which is one of the most densely populated islands in the world. Whilst the main islands are heavily populated and expensive to live on (with very limited living space), many of the outlying islands provide a more cost effective and spacious living environment.
Hong Kong has a staggering 7,650 skyscrapers, which along with the famous harbour, provide some of the most breathtaking views. Many expats love the lifestyle on offer in Hong Kong due to the incredibly love crime rate, easy way of life and nature parks. 70% of Hong Kong is made up of protected country parks which provide fantastic trails and tracks, breathtaking mountain peaks, waterfalls and caves, and there is even a UN Geopark – rock formations unique to the world. There is a fantastic array of natural beauty and wildlife, including pink dolphins, rare species of birds and butterflies, and local culture on the islands can be easily explored via boats from the mainland.
Employment, economy and business culture
To relocate to this popular expat destination, the conditions of employment in Hong Kong are fairly straightforward; you must obtain a working visa unless you have the right to abode or right to land in HKSAR and your foreign spouses and dependant children are allowed to join you as long as they are supported by their sponsors and do not charge on public funds.
Hong Kong is the major financial hub for China, providing many thousands of jobs to professionals in the finance and banking industries. It also offers very low taxes which helps to entice expats from all around the world.
Hong Kong has a very strong work ethic and many of the Chinese workers, including those in the senior sectors, will work between 10 – 12 hours each day. Whilst many other expatriates are not required to work this long, there is a high level of competitiveness between employees.
As one of the most vibrant locations to live in, Hong Kong is set for another round of growth in 2014. Find out more about the current job market by reading ‘Career Hotspots: 2014 – Hong Kong‘.
Expat lifestyle and cost of living
The main islands, which are home to the majority of company buildings in Hong Kong, are so densely populated that living space is extremely scarce. Not only are the number of available apartments limited and incredibly small, but they’re very expensive. Many expatriates moving to Hong Kong feel that by living on the main islands, close to their place of work, that they’ll save time and increase their quality of life. However, due to amount of traffic on these islands, the commute to and from work, even within a short distance, can take close to an hour.
Despite this, there is infact a better alternative. Many of the surrounding islands are much more spacious, offering expats sizeable houses with good living spaces, outdoor space and a better cost and quality of living. These islands are all conveniently within a 20 minute boat journey, taking you through the stunning sights that Hong Kong has to offer. This, therefore, is a very common practice for expats looking to take advantage of the highly reduced tax on their income and the beauty on offer in Hong Kong.
The surrounding country parks offer a vast number of tracks and trails with an incredible array of wildlife to give you a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Expats looking to get out of the city areas find more than enough natural beauty to explore in their free time and on weekends. You can also escape Hong Kong for a weekend or short holiday and visit countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines and parts of China all within around 2 – 3 hours (flight time).
In 2011 Hong Kong became the 9th most expensive city for expatriates and had the 3rd most expensive rental market – the average rental cost of a luxury two bedroom apartment in the city is almost $13,600 USD per month. The cost of groceries and entertainment are also fairly high, with a litre of milk costing as much as $3.08. Below is a list of goods, services and accommodation along with their prices (in $ USD) according to the Mercer Cost of Living Survey 2012.
Prices of goods / services ($ USD):
Bread, White Sliced $3.10-$6.40
1 ltr Milk, Pasteurised, Whole $2.69-$3.09
Cigarettes (20 pack) $6.08
Fitness Club annual fee (1 adult) $1,165.72-$1,752.95
Tennis Court rent (1 hr, weekend) $5.11-$13.76
Prices of Accommodation (Monthly Rent): Good-Excellent ($ USD)
2 Bedroom, Unfurnished Apartment $6,697.16-$13,392.82
4 Bedroom, Unfurnished House $17,048.98-$36,533.30
Hong Kong has some of the lowest tax and living costs for expatriates. Learn more about how far your money could go in this popular expat destination by reading ‘Locations With the Lowest Tax: Hong Kong‘.
Health and education
There is a good standard of medical care in Hong Kong in both the public and private hospitals. One of the biggest concerns is air pollution. Whilst an on-going issue for the city, air pollution isn’t as much of a concern as outsiders might think, and the mountains provide a great getaway from the pollution of the city.
It has also been reported that there are also occasional outbreaks of denge fever and Japanese encephalitis, however medicine is widely available so there’s no need to worry.
School in Hong Kong is compulsory and free for children between the ages of 6 – 15. The schooling system is extremely good, teaching children either English or Mandarin as a first language, but often providing the other as a second.
There are three different types of schools in Hong Kong; local schools, English schools (governed by the English School Foundation, E.F.S.) and International schools. The International schools are very competitive to get into and can cost a lot of money. However, many expats who attended English or International schools feel that they missed out on the opportunity to become bi or tri-lingual, and nowadays many expats moving to Hong Kong choose to put their children into the local schooling system.
Public services and transport
The electricity, water and telephone systems in Hong Kong are of the highest standard. Hong Kong is also known as having one of the best public transport systems in the world, and for good reason. With tube trains running every 2-3 minutes and as often as every minute during peak-hours it is very easy to commute to and from work.
The ferry system works very well too, ferrying people from the outlying islands to the main islands within around 20 minutes. There is also a world class airport which is the fourth busiest international airport in the world with around 750 aircraft movements each day.
There are many connecting trains to Beijing, Shanghai and even cities of the Guangdong Province which are cheaper than air travel, so trains are a popular choice for many.
There’s so much more on offer in Hong Kong than many expect and life outside of the main islands has lots to offer, especially if you’re considering relocating with a young family. Hong Kong has great infrastructure, it’s a very safe place and low income tax is very beneficial for many expats working there. However, don’t underestimate the cost of living as this can be a shock to many relocating there. Plan ahead, research the best schools, areas to live in and be careful not to live outside of your means.
If you have been tempted by the lifestyle on offer in Hong Kong and would like to relocate there then find out more about the current job market by reading ‘Career Hotspots: 2014 – Hong Kong‘.