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Youth Employment: Greater Bay Area cross-border scheme to become permanent


UPDATED :2024-01-08

After a two-year trial run, the Hong Kong government says it will permanently implement a scheme to increase youth employment in the Greater Bay Area. The initiative aims to encourage more young people in Hong Kong to find jobs in mainland cities. Huang Fei reports.

When Steven Tsang graduated from university two years ago, youth unemployment in Hong Kong was at a record high. So, when a government-funded program offered more than 2,000 work placements on the mainland, Steven jumped at the opportunity. He's now a full-time paralegal at a law firm in the district of Nansha, a key trade and investment hub on the southern tip of Guangzhou.

"I went to university in Guangzhou and already knew about the various employment and startup support for Hong Kong and Macao residents. I think this job has increased my credentials and broadened my horizon. Many of our cases involve laws in both Hong Kong and the mainland. Learning to navigate them has been very rewarding," said Steven.

Steven's placement is at the first joint venture partnership law firm employing staff from Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong. They are among the first to obtain licenses to practice across the Greater Bay Area.

"Hong Kong and Macao candidates are fluent in English, Cantonese and Portuguese, which gives them an advantage in handling cross-border cases. As the Greater Bay Area becomes more developed, more international firms will become active here, and will need legal services. We will certainly continue to support the job scheme," said Zeng Minhua, a lawyer of Kingbridge Sun Kuong Law Firm.

"This is how the youth employment scheme works. Companies with business in Hong Kong and on the mainland part of the Greater Bay Area can participate. They must offer a monthly salary of no less than 18,000 HK Dollars. Employers receive a monthly allowance of 10,000 HK dollars from the SAR government for each graduate they send to work on the mainland. That subsidy will last up to a year and a half," said Huang Fei.

More than 400 companies took part in the trial from 2021, although some reported a reluctance among applicants due to strict COVID quarantine measures at the time. But with borders now open, business insiders say they hope more young talent will come on board, attracted by the prospect of working for large multi-nationals on the mainland.

William Sung, a business coach and Wilosophy board member from British Chamber of Commerce Guangdong said, "Since the borders have opened, I've had a lot more requests for me to come in and do sharings and workshops and coaching for their talent, because they know that they'll be facing off to a lot more international visitors and managers but have also opened up a lot more vacancies for Hong Kong talent to come in as well, because they understand that Hong Kong will always be their partner in this."

Cross-border employment subsidies are seen as part of China's long-term strategy to build a global economic powerhouse on its southern shores. Analysts say the demand for multilingual talent isn't just in high-profile sectors such as tech and finance, but also in fast-recovering industries such as tourism and hospitality.

Editor: Annie