Beware the ‘Glocals’ if you’re Planning a Career in Asian IT

foxconn workerI’ve just finished a piece for IDG Connect looking ahead to job prospects in Hong Kong and China for ex-pat IT pros in 2015. As usual, it’s a mixed bag.

On the one hand the jobs market is booming and there are plenty of vacancies. The Harvey Nash CIO Survey of 2014, for example found 76% of Hong Kong and China CIOs were concerned about a technology skills shortage. A further 42% said they were planning to increase headcount last year and APAC MD Nick Marsh told me by email that he “expects to see that demand continue” this year.

Skills particularly in demand, he said, are big data, mobile, cloud and digital, although more traditional areas are also important. “Fundamental areas such as project management, enterprise architecture, and business analysis are still the top areas of skill demand,” he said.

Candidates with leadership capabilities and “exceptional communication skills” as well as those who can demonstrate an ability to innovate will be favoured.

However, Marsh also warned that employers in the region are increasingly likely to favour “glocals” – that is, locals who have overseas education and/or experience.

This is bad news for the ex-pat IT job seeker looking to land a plum job in China or Hong Kong.

“Candidates should focus on the strength of their understanding of the local market, customers, and their industry,” Marsh advised. “This understanding is critical, and without it they are likely to lose out to local or ‘glocal’ talent.”

More bad news came in the form of a recent Regus study on office stress in Hong Kong and China.

It found that in Hong Kong, working to deadlines (24%) was rated stressful by a far higher percentage than the global average (14%), while “colleagues” (11%) was more than double the global norm of 5%.

Unreliable or obsolete technology (26%) and a lack of staff (28%) were also major factors.

“When employees don’t have a good work/life balance, they feel overstretched, unhappy and, ultimately they become less productive,” Regus Hong Kong country manager Michael Ormiston told me. “Flexible working can alleviate some of the pressures that create stress, while at the same time reducing a company’s costs.”

Given that most employers in China and Hong Kong are putting ex-pats on local packages these days, a move out East is becoming less and less attractive to Western IT professionals. It might be worth staying put for the time being.


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