​Singapore and Hong Kong bear remarkably similar characteristics – both have a dense population, limited natural resources, and are economically and technologically advanced.

​It is no surprise then that when COVID-19 hit, the two cities were often compared against each other. And while the both started out implementing heavy restrictions to minimise the spread of the virus, Singapore has been much quicker to embrace an endemic state.

​What does this difference mean for the economy and job market of these countries? This article will delve into what recruiters and job seekers alike can expect in Hong Kong and Singapore, and how to make the most out of it.

The contrast of two cities

In the early days, both Singapore and Hong Kong adopted strict lockdown measures to counter the pandemic. Mandatory masking, workplace closures and restrictions in group sizes reigned supreme in both countries for months. At least, until the vaccines came into the picture.

It is then that the two countries diverged in their methods. While Hong Kong continued its strict zero cases policy, Singapore went on an aggressive vaccination movement.

Today, Singapore has relaxed a vast majority of its pandemic measures. Fully-vaccinated travellers can now enter the country without needing to quarantine and large-scale events are gradually resuming with minimal restrictions. Meanwhile, Hong Kong continues to maintain strict pandemic measures. Fully-vaccinated travellers are required to quarantine for 7 days, while unvaccinated travellers need to undergo a 14 day quarantine.

Naturally, these measures have had an impact on the two countries’ economies, their employment rates, and consequently, on recruiters and job seekers alike.

Hong Kong’s recruitment outlook

Hong Kong’s employment rates have taken a huge hit. Between February and April 2022, Hong Kong experienced record high unemployment as rates spiked to 5.4%. Among the hardest hit industries were the building sector, as well as the retail, accommodation and food services sector.

But all is not lost for job seekers. The country has since begun to ease social distancing measures, and introduced government support schemes.

The Consumption Voucher Scheme, for instance, will provide vouchers amounting to HK$10,000 (US$1,273) to eligible individuals. This will help increase consumption of goods and services in Hong Kong, boosting the business outlook of those in consumption-related sectors and by extension, employment.

In the interim, the country’s 2022 Employment Support Schemealso provided wage subsidies for three months (May to July 2022), to help offset the costs of employment. This will encourage employers to retain their staff, or even increase hiring as pandemic measures are relaxed.

These efforts seem to be working thus far, as their most recent unemployment rate as of April to June has eased to 4.7%, according to CNA.

Singapore’s employment outlook

In Singapore, employment has been fairly stable since the government began to relax its pandemic measures. Unemployment rates returned to Pre-COVID levels as of February 2022, and remained stable throughout the first quarter, according to Human Resources Online.

Total employment too has continued to expand in Q1 2022, growing by over 41,000. Growth in employment was observed in various sectors including construction, outward-oriented sectors such as information and communications, as well as the financial services.

Covid-19 impact on recruitment

Beyond the numbers, the pandemic has impacted recruitment trends in the two countries as well. Amidst an uncertain economy, employers appear more reluctant to commit to permanent roles. Instead, they are turning to contract workers for the increased flexibility it provides. To adapt, job seekers can consider seeking shorter-term opportunities in the interim while the market stabilises.

This is especially true in Hong Kong, which is still getting back on its feet after two brutal years of lockdowns.

With the pandemic catalysing digitalisation, tech skills are also all the more valued – something job seekers should take note of if they are considering upskilling themselves.

On the flip side, the pandemic has also changed employees' perception of what work should look like. Increasingly, job seekers are valuing flexibility, the option of hybrid or remote work, and other factors above pure remuneration. Employers need to take these considerations into account if they want to attract top talent.

Another point of consideration for employers is the option to now hire anyone, from anywhere in the world. The prevalence of remote work today means that employers are no longer restricted to just hiring from within their own borders, and can look towards other countries as well. This will, however, mean increased competition for job seekers.

All in all, both Hong Kong and Singapore are starting to escape from the long and dreary road that was the pandemic. Amidst economic recovery, it is up to both job seekers and recruiters to make the most of the opportunities presented by being agile, flexible and proactive.

Want advice on how to navigate recruitment and job seeking during a pandemic? Reach out to Charterhouse Asia today!