February 25, 2024

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In Hong Kong, English is not the first language of business

In Hong Kong, English is not the first language of business

Being an English speaker isn’t enough to ensure you find a job when you’re an expat in Hong Kong – unless you’re also fluent in Cantonese or Mandarin.

This shows An investigation South China Morning Post, Especially new arrivals with “dependent visas”, in other words, spouses of Hong Kong citizens who have the legal right to work in Hong Kong.

Ace Ara, a British national who married a Hong Kong woman, arrived in the city in June 2022. A web developer with five years of experience in IT support submitted five hundred job applications to companies with international employees. A prerequisite is knowledge of the Chinese language.

“In every job interview, the first question is, ‘Do you speak Chinese?’ He says. And because he didn’t speak Cantonese, more than 90% of the employers he approached rejected his application.

A Facebook group formed by expatriates in Hong Kong collected 20 such testimonies last May, including from newcomers with dependent visas.

“When Hong Kong-based companies look at the Chinese market, there is less demand for English-speaking staff. SIf you don’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin, you will be punished”, Sid Sibal, vice-president of a recruitment firm, explains.

Additionally, some employers are more reluctant than ever to hire applicants with dependent visas. “They are worried because the visa depends on their partner. If [les partenaires] Leave Hong Kong, lose your job or divorce, and dependents will also lose their visas”Alexa Chow Yee-ping, director of another recruitment firm, points out.

However, many experts point out that the city will not be able to remain competitive or maintain its status as an international city if it fails to retain foreign professionals and their family members who eventually want to work there.

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Ace Ara completed a six-month contract with the British Council, which aims to promote the English language around the world. He hopes his contract will be extended. But to ensure he could stay with his wife in Hong Kong, he decided to get serious about learning Cantonese.