The latest unemployment rate in Hong Kong has soared to 4.2% for the first quarter of 2020, an unprecedented high in more than nine years, as published by the government on April 20. This comes after the city’s economy contracted for 1.2% in 2019 as indicated by WSJ, the first annual recession in the last decade. Analysts predicted a possible first-ever back-to-back recession for the SAR, which suffered first from political unrest in the second half of 2019, then from the COVID-19 pandemic since the start of 2020 according to Bloomberg.(Statistics from the Census & Statistics Department.)
This is detrimental news for the fresh graduates this year, who have witnessed the downturn of the economy since the start of their academic year. Facing immense financial pressure, many companies are refraining from hiring this year, greatly limiting the number of vacancies in the job market.
As many workers with experience have lost their job recently as well, there would be many more candidates vying for the same jobs, making the transition from school to work even more challenging.
OnGrad, a recruitment and education start-up that connects companies and fresh grads, provides recruitment services to a wide range of companies, from McDonald’s to Microsoft and CitiBank. The organization responded through an online interview that four-fifth of companies in their database delayed recruitment programmes. “It may be due to the time involved in moving it online, or [they are] hesitating if they should still hire fresh grads or interns, comparing with last year.”
“More than 80% of the companies delayed their recruitment process of their campus recruitment programme”, said OnGrad.
This does not only happen with smaller companies which might be struggling to keep in operation. Many big companies are also delaying or even putting a halt to their Management Trainee or Graduate Trainee programmes, including HSBC, which came under fire in early April due to their decision to cancel its dividend to shareholders by the request of UK regulators and saw their stock plunged.
(HSBC put a halt to their Graduate Trainee and Internship 2020 programme. Source: OnGrad’s Facebook post)
OnGrad has also held a poll in April, asking students whether they are receiving any feedbacks or offers from the companies that they have applied to. Out of 497 respondents, only 22% of them received any offer, while 78% indicated that they were still waiting for updates.
(OnGrad’s poll shows nearly 80% of university students are still waiting for responses from their internship or job application. Source: OnGrad’s Facebook post)
In recognition of the exceptional challenges that the fresh grads are facing, the government has proposed to create 200 internship or executive assistant openings in the public and private sectors that would last up to 12 months in the coming two years.
This is part of the proposal to create 30,000 such time-limited jobs with $6 million in the second round of the Anti-epidemic Fund, which was passed by the Legislative Council on April 18. The government would also take in about 10,000 civil servants and 5,000 short-term interns in the coming year.
Apart from the government, private companies are extending their help as well. Hong Kong Broadband Network is now offering an internship programme for 100 fresh graduates of the year 2019 and 2020 to help kickstart their careers. Successful candidates would be mentored for 3 months by the company’s Hong Kong-based top executives.
(HKBN Offers 3-month Internship Programme to 100 University Graduates. Source: OnGrad’s Facebook post)
As graduation season is approaching in two months, fresh graduates this year could only wish for the very best in their job hunt. Here’s to the common wish that all fresh grads could secure a decent job at the start of their lifelong careers in this challenging time.