Tech Careers Outlook for Hong Kong in 2019

on January 15, 2019

Hong Kong, with its skyscraper-studded skyline and as a densely populated urban centre, is now emerging as one of the newest technology hubs in the world. This is resulting in a massive demand for skilled employees in the technology sector. We will discuss the overall employment scenario in Hong Kong, the potential for tech in the city, and the top tech jobs in Hong Kong that are on the boom in 2019.

hong kong tech careers


Hong Kong and the Current Issues in Employment

For decades, Hong Kong was the nerve centre of economic growth and prosperity in Asia. Between 1961 to 1997, Hong Kong’s GDP multiplied by a factor of 180 and in 1993 Hong Kong’s GDP as a percentage of the total GDP of mainland China stood at a whopping 27%. However, in 2017 that percentage came down to less than 3%. While this is mostly an indicator of how the mainland has liberalised its economy and seen high growth rates, it also shows that Hong Kong has fallen behind in some ways in the last few years.

This is because when Hong Kong transitioned to a service economy in the 1980s, it soon became a hub for trade and finance. The government’s laissez-faire policies of minimum interference and minimal taxation attracted a number of overseas corporations to the city. In fact, even today, Hong Kong has the second-highest number of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, in the past few years growth in Hong Kong has slowed down considerably as compared to many other Asian cities which are now on a growth spurt. While Hong Kong does have almost full employment (the unemployment rate is only about 3%), the unemployment rate for those aged below 25 is much higher at almost 8%. The deteriorating trade relationship between the US and China, lower economic growth in mainland China and high prices of property in Hong Kong all add up to an economy that makes day-to-day living more difficult.

Next year, in fact, salaries in Hong Kong are expected to see a real increase of only 1.9%. This is much lower than Malaysia, Singapore, Mainland China, India and many other Asian economies which are seeing a much healthier rise in their incomes and higher growth rates. This has led to a lot of pessimism in the Hong Kong economy, especially among the millennial population.

The primary reason for this is that most economies in Asia in the last 5-10 years have seen much of their growth come from the technology sector. However, Hong Kong’s technology sector did not take off in quite the same way as a result of which the more traditional sectors like trade and finance had to continue to carry the burden of the economy.

But all that has changed in the recent past and Hong Kong is now fast on its way to becoming a major technology hub in Asia. This is changing the scope for employment and growth for young people in a big way.


Employment Trends in the Technology Sector in Hong Kong

The government has realised that their usual hands-off approach to Hong Kong’s economy which worked so well in the past has not worked as well in recent years. Other economies like the nearby mainland city of Shenzhen moved ahead, and are now home to tech giants like Huawei, Tencent, and ZTE.

However, in the past few years, the government has put in place several measures to make Hong Kong a hub for tech innovation. A big part of this is Beijing’s “Greater Bay Area” project. This project aims at turning Hong Kong and ten other neighbouring regions into a technological hub rivalling the Silicon Valley in the United States.

Moreover, the Hong Kong government earmarked HK $50 billion in its latest budget for supporting innovation and technology developments. They are also collaborating with universities and technology companies from the mainland as well as from the United States. These companies are setting up their physical stores in Hong Kong to strengthen the city’s IT(Information Technology) sector.

All these changes are already bearing fruit.

The visible result: The number of technology startups in Hong Kong has increased by as much as 23.6% between 2015 and 2016. The number of employees in such startups increased by 41% during the same period.

hong kong startups

This goes on to show that Hong Kong is now moving forward and is expected to soon become a leading hub of innovation and technology. The technology sector in Hong Kong is arguably a great place to be in right now. However, the demands do not match the supply as there is a significant skills shortage in the tech industry in Hong Kong. Therefore, a top tech job in Hong Kong has the potential for lucrative salaries and skyrocketing career growth.


Growth Trajectory

Technology companies are known to have some of the flattest hierarchies in the world. Many of them employ young people with cutting-edge skills. They realise that the only way to retain this young talent is to give them ownership of projects and the ability to impact the bigger picture.

Moreover, many technology companies including tech trailblazers like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook were started by their founders at a very young age. In the early stages of a tech startup, many of the key decision makers also tend to be young people. At this juncture of the company, the only thing that matters is growth, and those who can achieve that, are rewarded.

Therefore, the technology industry is the best place to be if you are looking for a career where your growth is based on the results you can achieve. Your experience and position in the hierarchy will matter much lesser at a job in a top tech company than in the other traditional industries.

Another significant advantage of a tech job is the availability of freelance work. As per Global Workplace Analytics survey, almost 80 to 90% of all employees admit that, if given an opportunity, they would like to work remotely. The tech industry realises that high-skilled millennials prefer to work on different projects as opposed to a long stint with one employer. This gives them more flexibility, better work-life balance, and more exciting and diverse work opportunity. As a result, many remote and freelancer tech jobs allow skilled technologists to have more control over their time and work.

remote working jobs hong kong


Salaries

The best tech jobs in Hong Kong are extremely lucrative. In fact, the tech industry across the world is known for compensating its employees well. This is not just in the form of a high take-home salary but also other numerous perks and benefits. These include work-from-home options, flexi-time, decent maternity and paternity leave and so on.

Here’s a breakdown of the average base salaries in different tech careers in Hong Kong. This covers not only the major roles but also the salary growth at different levels in the hierarchy. This should give you a good idea of both the entry level compensation and the scope for growth in the tech industry.

tech career salaries in hong kong


Skills Gap

The Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (somewhat) recently conducted a survey of more than 150 technology companies in Hong Kong. Around 50% of the companies surveyed said that they had a shortage of talent. This just goes to show that there is a huge supply shortfall when it comes to the skilled workforce in the technology sector in Hong Kong.

In order to meet this skills gap, many companies are collaborating with universities,  online learning platforms and in-person training facilitators like Xccelerate. This will help impart the right skills to young people who are planning on entering the tech industry.

it skills training in hong kong

Due to the significant demand-supply gap, companies are also doing their best to attract and retain skilled employees. This doesn’t just mean higher salaries. It also implies that companies are more collaborative and friendly in their approach. They also make it a point to create more job fulfilment and better work-life balance for their employees.


Barriers to Entry

You often hear about top paying tech jobs going to graduates from prestigious universities. However, the good thing about a career in technology is that hard skills are valued far more than your education. Since so many tech skills revolve around logic and problem-solving ability, it’s very easy to demonstrate whether you possess a particular skill or not.

Thus, the barriers to entry when it comes to a top paying tech job in Hong Kong are actually quite low. The only thing that matters is if you actually have a particular skill. This can easily be demonstrated through your portfolio, your Github account or specific programming tests.

In today’s day and age, you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars and get a Computer Science degree to land on a top tech job. There are many skill-imparting and authentic courses, both online and offline depending on your preference, that can help you learn valuable tech skills. Moreover, troubleshooting is one of the most significant skills a techie needs to cultivate. If you’re ever stuck on a programming problem, Google is your best friend.

learning to code in hong kong

There are many examples of people all over the world who have learned programming outside of a conventional university environment. They’ve moved from careers in banking and sales to technology by learning how to code or how to work on technical projects and teams. As long as you have a computer and the willingness to invest time and effort, you can have a top tech career in Hong Kong.


Best Tech Careers in Hong Kong

The massive push to the technology sector by the government has resulted in a huge proliferation of tech startups in Hong Kong. The traditional industries in Hong Kong like banking, finance, trade, and real estate are being disrupted by such rapid technological changes.

Of course, technology is a very broad sector and encompasses many different skills, roles, and interest areas. Another critical feature of the tech industry is that it keeps evolving swiftly. As a result, new skills are always coming into the picture even as old skills become obsolete. And the need of the hour is constant skill update and learning! Also, a lot of the new skills are easy to pick up only if you already have a related skill set.

Therefore, it’s important to constantly be aware of how the industry is evolving. It’s also important to be open to learning at any time in your tech career.

Here are some of the roles and areas which currently top the list of tech careers in Hong Kong in 2019.


Data Science and Analytics

Data science is one of the most upcoming areas in the tech industry. According to a KPMG survey, 81% of enterprises now rely on analytics to improve their understanding of customers. For example, 92% of C-level executives use analytics to get better marketing insights.

Most companies have realised that robust analytics can help them make better decisions. However, analytics is one of those areas where you can generate meaningful insights only when you have the right talent. Companies need people who have a solid problem-solving ability as well as technical knowledge of analytics tools like Tableau, R, and Visual Analytics. That’s why analytics is one of the most sought after tech careers today.

learn data science in hong kong

Data scientists are in demand not just in technology companies but even more traditional sectors like supply chain, finance, and real estate. Therefore, Hong Kong, with its strong services sector, is hiring data scientists and analysts on overdrive.

To get started, we recommend taking on a powerful yet accessible coding language: Python.


AI(Artificial Intelligence) and ML(Machine Learning)

Technologies like AI and ML use Big Data to improve how certain things are done and automate others altogether. In fact, one of the major benefits of AI and ML algorithms is that they enable companies to automate routine tasks like IT support.

In fact, according to a study by Gartner, Artificial Intelligence will eliminate 1.8 million jobs by 2020.

ai and machine learning in hong kong

However, according to the same study, AI it will also create 2.3 million jobs during this time. 

Even today, there is a massive dearth of AI talent not just in Hong Kong but across the world. A report says that while there are only 300,000 AI professionals in the world, there are more than a million AI jobs!

Hong Kong has lagged behind the mainland where the application of AI ranges from taxi-sharing apps to business blockchains. However, with the government now pushing high-tech companies and startups, Hong Kong is soon expected to become a hub for AI innovation. In fact, it is already home to some large AI-based startups like Klook, Gshopper, and Snapask.

For those familiar with language like Python, a course in Data Science & Machine Learning may be the next logical step in this direction. To go deeper into AI, check out an immersive bootcamp offering.


DevOps

DevOps is a methodology that tech companies across the world use to be more efficient and profitable. DevOps is a set of philosophies, practices, and tools that help a tech company to make better products and to take them to the market quicker. DevOps achieves this by enabling better integration of the operations and development teams.

DevOps professionals bridge the communication gaps between operations and software development. This helps the development team to understand the needs of customers and create better products faster. While many DevOps professionals do have some background in coding, you don’t need to be an expert programmer to have a successful DevOps career. Skills like collaboration, team management, and communication are more important.

Many tech companies in Hong Kong naturally use DevOps practices and require DevOps professionals. Moreover, DevOps practices are now becoming more mainstream with traditional sectors like banking and finance also using them to improve collaboration between their development and operation teams. It is only apparent that the demand for DevOps professionals is only going grow across industries in Hong Kong.


Cybersecurity

In today’s day and age, companies across the globe spend over $100 billion on security products. Cyber attacks are increasing in number and becoming more sophisticated. The hacked data is either sold for very high prices in the black market or encrypted for ransom.

Since cyber attacks are becoming more custom and complex, cybersecurity is becoming a major concern for companies. Cybersecurity is evolving very quickly, and companies need to have in-house teams with the right expertise.

As a result, there is a major shortage of cybersecurity experts. According to research, there will be an estimated 3.5 million unfilled positions in the cybersecurity industry by 2021. Hong Kong is no exception to this, with several industries like healthcare and finance which have very precious customer data.

As this data has moved online, it is becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats. As a result, all these industries are hiring cybersecurity experts who are up to date with the latest cyber security trends and tools.


Full stack developer

Any technology product has two major aspects to it- the front end and the back end. The front end refers to things like the website and the app which users can see and interact with. The back end refers to the database which forms the backbone of the product. Any action by the user on the front end goes to the database in the form of a query. The database generates a result which is then displayed to the user through the front-end technology.

There are some developers who are experienced in front-end technologies like HTML, CSS, and Javascript. There are others who program and maintain the database and are known as back-end developers. A full-stack developer is someone who can work on both the front end and the back end.

full stack developer hong kong

Full stack developers are always in huge demand because with their range of skills they can essentially create any product from scratch. This kind of flexibility is especially important in an early stage tech company where quick and actionable results are needed. Full stack developers often command very high salaries too.

If you’re in Hong Kong and want to learn the basics of web development we might suggest our part-time Coding for Absolute Beginners course or our Full-Time Immersive Software Engineering course if you are committed to kickstarting a new career.


FinTech

Hong Kong has long been known as a hub for finance. It is now positioning itself as an ideal destination for FinTech startups. FinTech refers to the application of cutting-edge technology to the world of financial services. It includes things like digital wallets, cryptocurrencies, payment banks, and so on.

The Hong Kong government has set aside an HK$500 million fund for developing financial services, especially FinTech. Hong Kong’s reputation as a financial hub, its strong laws, and its financial regulations are likely to give it a competitive advantage as an investment destination for major FinTech startups. In fact, last year investment in Hong Kong-based FinTech startups doubled to US$546 million.

fintech in hong kong

FinTech is an excellent option for people who have a background in traditional finance companies but would like to move to the tech industry. They can leverage their knowledge of finance to join exciting fintech startups.


Blockchain

Blockchain technology is the principle on which cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum operate. Blockchain technology works on the principle of a distributed ledger. All transactions in the blockchain are recorded in a decentralised manner and are completely transparent and tamper-proof. This is why blockchain technology is supposed to be the future of the internet. It can change the way we undertake transactions; whether it’s in finance, real estate, telecom or supply chain.

There has been a global shortage of blockchain developers for a long time now. This is because blockchain technology has been a niche technology for many years and most new developers prefer learning more established technologies.

blockchain in hong kong

However, in recent years blockchain has become more mainstream and many companies from the big tech giants like IBM and Microsoft to finance companies like VISA have been investing heavily in blockchain technology. Since blockchain skills are so much in demand, salaries for blockchain developers tend to be very high. This is another factor which is attracting more young developers to top paying jobs in blockchain technology.

Hong Kong now has a robust regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and blockchain in place. This is already attracting more blockchain startups to the city. Japanese messaging giant LINE just set up a $10 million fund for a blockchain project in Hong Kong. BitMEX and Coinsuper are crypto exchanges based out of Hong Kong that add credibility to the blockchain sector in the city.

Might we recommend our part-time Blockchain course in HK to get started in this technology?


Scrum Master

Scrum is a methodology for implementing Agile practices. Agile helps tech companies listen to customer feedback. This helps them make changes faster and give customers the products that they really want.

According to a survey by Randstad Hong Kong, 58 per cent of technology teams across Hong Kong use Scrum, while the others use a combination of Scrum and Kanban.

Scrum master helps facilitate such a technology team to implement Agile practices. Effective Agile implementation depends on team members working together and reaching a consensus. As a result, the Scrum master’s role is vital. In-depth knowledge of Agile principles along with the ability to communicate and coordinate with different people is the key.


UI/UX designer

Technology has now become a big part of people’s lives with apps and websites for daily tasks being a major part of the everyday routine of most people. It’s now more important for companies to keep these apps and websites as simple and easy to use as possible.

That’s the job of UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) designers to understand how users engage with tech products. They then design products which give customers the simplest yet most attractive layout and the smoothest experience. As all tech companies are competing with many others that offer a similar service, having an intuitive UI/UX has become critical.

ux in hong kong

Those who have experience or interest in graphic design should definitely consider a career as a UI/UX designer. We do offer a course in UX Design as well.


Cloud specialist

Legacy systems based on proprietary servers are now becoming outdated. They operate on logic which is fast becoming obsolete. Cloud-based servers are much safer, more efficient, and easier to use. They also come up with lesser upfront costs and more scalability.

As a result, many companies in healthcare, banking and finance, and real estate are now moving to cloud-based infrastructure. Many of these companies have customer data which is extremely confidential and prone to cyber attacks.

Therefore, many companies are looking for engineers who have the expertise to migrate from hardware servers to cloud-based servers. These engineers not only migrate the software but also help maintain it. They can also build and operate a system on a cloud-based server from scratch. Since Hong Kong is home to so many services-based companies, the colossal demand for cloud specialists is going to be evergreen.


Systems engineer

As of February 2017, 49.7% of web views worldwide were on mobile devices. This number is only going up with time. As more people get hooked to smartphones, many older companies have to make their websites mobile-friendly and create mobile applications. Newer companies are now building mobile-first websites and technology.

As a result, developers who have expertise in mobile technologies are in high demand. Mobile technologies include knowledge of particular mobile platforms like iOS, Android, and Windows. It also includes expertise in making mobile-responsive websites.

The demand for mobile developers doesn’t just exist among tech companies. Many financial services and banking companies are also looking to hook their customers onto their mobile apps and websites. As a result, there is a major demand for high paying tech jobs for mobile developers.

Even though it seems like the Hong Kong economy has stagnated in some ways, there are more opportunities opening up in other ways. When it comes to the tech industry, Hong Kong’s recent push seems to be paying off in a big way. This is the perfect time to embark on a tech career in Hong Kong. The opportunities are increasing exponentially, and the barriers to entry are relatively low. As long as you can commit time and effort to learn in-demand tech skills, you are on your way to a lucrative career.


  hong kong
  careers