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Generation Y Accountants

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 PRC-education peers.

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 more challenges.

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 at present.

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 Y

Baby Boomers Generation X Generation Y
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 different ethnicity.

As they turned 30 and 40 the long hair became shorter, ideas more conservative and the pay packets thicker.

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'.

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