At a recent conference on the role of the good employer,
I was interested to hear that people born after 1980
are now known as the 'Generation Y'. With this in mind,
I thought it would be interesting to compare 'Generation
Y' with 'Generation X', people born between 1965 and
1980; and the 'Baby Boomers', those born between the
end of the second war (WWII) and 1965.
The table below illustrates a changing global culture,
and one which Hong Kong wil have to follow. In China,
however, which is more conservative and less exposed
to the impact of globalisation, it seems that the 'Generation
Y' is responding much slower to these global trends.
This group is displaying more of the characteristics
of 'Generation X' than of 'Generation Y'. As such, it
might be more beneficial for local employers to recruit
PRC Graduates rather than Hong Kong graduates, especially
as the employment market opens, following China's entry
to the WTO.
During the 1980s and 1990s, much of Hong Kong's economic
prosperity resulted from its rapid integration with
China. But as China becomes more and more independent,
Hong Kong's role has started to change from that of
investor and pathfinder to that of facilitator and regional
financial base. Hong Kong is now, more than ever, working
with China on an equal footing.
The significance of this change is that China no longer
needs to recruit as many people from Hong Kong as it
has done in the past. The skills sets demonstrated by
China's workforce have much improved. In many ways,
PRC workers are as technically competent as their Hong
Kong counterparts, but they also work harder, are more
adapt to the Mainland work environment and are more
ready to accept a lower salary.
In light of this, it makes sense that the demand for
Hong Kong graduates in the PRC is diminishing - although
Hong Kong's top graduates still have the edge over their
For the time being, Hong Kong qualifications, especially
those awarded by professional bodies, are still better
recognised internationally. Our 'Generation Y' accountants,
for example, are generally able to speak English and
use information technology, as well as being at ease
in a competitive multi-cultural environment. As such,
Hong Kong graduates are likely to be able to communicate
well with their bosses and with their foreign colleagues.
Social skills, linguistic skills, technological skills
and communication skills are attributes which have saved
the day for many Hong Kong graduates.
I believe therefore that Hong Kong graduates will still
be in demand in the future, albeit in smaller numbers.
They will rise through the ranks more quickly than their
China counterparts. However, at the junior management
level, I foresee less demand for Hong Kong graduates
as more Chinese graduates become capable of taking on
Our best hope for Hong Kong graduates is that they
sharpen their skills to enable them to compete for more
senior positions. Otherwise, the weaker Hong Kong graduates
are likely to face a less than rosy career path than
But despite the obvious competition from the Mainland,
recent surveys suggest that many of our fresh graduates
are not confronting this reality. For those who still
treat Hong Kong as a local village, and for those who
will not explore beyond the realm of the 'cantopop'
culture to learn English and Mandarin, it would not
surprise me if they find themselves quickly overtaken
by the army of say one million Mainland 'Generation
X' graduates above to storm over the border.
From Baby Boomer to Generation X to Generation
|Born between the end of WW II and 1965.
||Born 1965 and 1980.
||Born after 1980.
|Went to school & University during a period
of unrivalled prosperity unlimited job opportunities.
||Children of those too young to fight in WW II.
||They are still at school and university
|Many questioned the economic social & political
structures underpinning economic prosperity.
||Biggest impact on marketing as the children of
baby boomers have enormous financial clout.
|No revolution prosperity was too tempting.
||First to experience social revolution - women's
liberation (women to have careers.)
First generation to grow up in a multi-cultural
country making them more at ease with peers of
|As they turned 30 and 40 the long hair became
shorter, ideas more conservative and the pay packets
Two working parents has made this generation
more resourceful, individualistic and irreverent.
|Technically adept, they are creating a global
generation through their access to mass media and
communication tools such as the internet.
|At work they focus on output not outcomes.
||At work there are more aware of their rights and
skills and less interested in long-term careers,
corporate loyalty or job status.
||Plenty of time to pursue their career goals -
they are in no hurry.
|Job status is important.
||Easier to recruit but harder to retain.
|Their motto is 'Let it be'
||Their motto is 'Life's a bitch and then you die".
||Their motto 'Don't stress'.