Career Aspirations of Hong Kong University Students Differ Vastly from Taiwan Counterparts

CLASS proposes four-point plan in response to research findings

University students in Hong Kong and Taiwan have vastly different views about future career development, such as the industries they want to join, their willingness to work overseas, and entrepreneurial aspirations, according to a research project published by City University on April 12.

The research project, titled “A Study of Career Aspirations between university students in Hong Kong and Taiwan”, was conducted by college leaders led by Professor WONG Singwing Dennis, Associate Dean of CityU’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and interviewed 1,159 university students in January 2018. The study aimed to get students’ views on their future career development, including the factors they considered important for employment, salary expectations, willingness to work overseas, interest in starting their own business, and employment capabilities.

The respondents differed widely in signalling their interest to start a business, with more than 66% in Taiwan interested compared to 42% in Hong Kong. Wong suggested this reflects differences in the economy and culture of the two places. He said another possible factor was the difference in resources and support provided to young people for entrepreneurship.

The businesses that respondents considered setting up were also different. Hong Kong students mostly preferred the arts and creative industry (19.1%) or tutoring and education sector (8.7%), while Taiwan students’ first and second choices were information technology and networks (22.9%), and the arts and creative industry (19.6%), respectively.

There was significant variation in the sectors that students would consider joining on graduation. While about 32% of Hong Kong students would like to join the public administration, social and personal service sectors, only 8.5% of respondents in Taiwan indicated a similar interest. The most popular industry among Taiwan students was manufacturing and construction trades (24%), while the top choice of Hong Kong respondents was the civil service (50.2%). Only 16.1% of Taiwan students indicated the same interest. This may be attributable to the differences in pay and political climate.

Salary expectations also differed. About 61% of Hong Kong students expected a monthly salary of HK$11,001 to HK$17,000. This was similar to the average salary of graduates 10 years ago, reflecting the drop in income. 40% of Taiwan students expected a monthly salary of HK$7,001 to HK$9,000, compared to only 2% of Hong Kong students, most likely because of the difference in median income and living standards.

While 62% of Hong Kong respondents indicated a willingness to work overseas, about 82% of Taiwan were interested. This difference may be due to economic factors, since Hong Kong people enjoy higher salaries and lower taxes than in Taiwan. Although people enjoy low taxes and low consumer prices in Taiwan, the lower wages make working overseas more attractive. When asked which other country they would like to work in, most young people in both places preferred Europe and the US (Hong Kong: about 36%; Taiwan: about 55%). While 46% of Taiwan students were willing to develop their career in the mainland, only 28% of Hong Kong students would consider it.

Students in both places showed similar attitudes to considering jobs. They emphasised most whether the job suited their interests (Hong Kong: 72.7%; Taiwan: 74.8%), then salary (Hong Kong: 57.3%; Taiwan: 62.4%), and thirdly, career prospects (Hong Kong: 56.5%; Taiwan: 48.8%). Job location was a minor factor (Hong Kong: 13%; Taiwan: 20.3%). Fewer than 20% of respondents in both places would consider whether the nature of the job could contribute to society (Hong Kong: 16.6%; Taiwan: 18.8%).

Students shared the same views on individual employment capabilities. In order of importance, the attributes that they stressed were communication skills, interpersonal skills, work experience, computer skills and clerical competence. In an ever-changing world with more degree holders, they felt knowledge learned in class had become less important in the workplace and that personality and life skills, such as communication skills, interpersonal skills and practical work experience, were more important for career success.

Based on these findings, Professor Wong and his team made the following suggestions:

    1.Start life planning early

    Not all young people are suitable for starting a business, and not all entrepreneurs become successful. It is important to help young people understand the concepts behind starting a business and encourage them to begin life planning early by providing career counselling to them.
    2.Develop more industries suitable for young people

    To encourage more local graduates to stay in Hong Kong for career development, the government should establish a stable job environment and boost upward mobility. It is also important to develop more industries suitable for young people to use their strengths: for example, jobs related to art and culture, creative media and cybernetics.
    3.Increase resources and support for young entrepreneurs

    Government departments, non-governmental organisations and universities should work together to provide more resources, training and space to make it less costly for young people to start a business.
    4.Provide pre-employment counselling and support for university students

    Most companies emphasise the personal qualities and work experience of job applicants. To enhance local and international competitiveness of university students, different parties should allocate resources to provide more internship To enhance local and international competitiveness of university students, different parties should allocate resources to provide more internship opportunities for university students to get work experience.