At Computerworld Expo recently, the Singapore government was extolling the delights of its prosperous, IT-welcoming city state.
Joy Ang of Contact Singapore said her government agency provides a link for New Zealanders to a raft of government and other bodies in her home country. “We are saying, ‘Why not do the OE in Asia?’” New Zealanders, she says, can enter as tourists and then look for work. Once they receive a job offer they can qualify for local sponsorship. Those with degrees or technical qualifications should be successful, she says.
Contact Singapore produces the brochure Mapping Your Career, which suggests demand for IT professionals will grow 10% to 12% this year, and total IT employed will reach 114,000.
P1 passes are issued to qualified foreigners earning more than $S7000 a month and P2 passes to foreigners earning $S3500 to $S7000 a month. Q passes are issued to skilled workers in demand, with qualified workers earning more than $S2000 a month getting a Q1 pass. Q1 passholders can bring in dependents and, with P passholders, can eventually qualify for residency. Schemes also exist for entrepreneurs and companies looking to invest in Singapore.
Lo Yoong Kong, a deputy director in the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, says some New Zealand firms at the recent Computerworld Expo showed interest in investing there. Singapore is close to other South-East Asian countries, and has a good IT infrastructure and a pool of skilled multilingual labour.
The Singapore government, he says, has identified future growth areas in IT and is keen to attract such enterprises. It is offering businesses $NZ240 million to spur the development of wireless technology and other new applications.
Bustling Hong Kong is also luring Kiwis. Earlier this month I received an email from IT recruitment consultant Lachlan Sloan, formerly of Auckland-based Protocol Personnel. He now works for recruitment consultancy EcomConnected in central Hong Kong, and says the position provides a higher salary, international career exposure, new challenges and lifestyle and hopefully the chance to work in mainland China one day.
Since arriving there ago, Sloan has found quite a few Kiwis in Hong Kong. He says most are in very senior roles, or are “consultants, regional managers, high end either technically or management”. Hong Kong also has many Australians, Americans and British residents. Many left before the Chinese takeover in 1997 but people are returning, lured by a larger market, low taxes and because Hong Kong is the gateway to China. “The pay is substantially higher than New Zealand, but living costs, especially housing, is a lot more expensive than New Zealand,” Sloan says. “The average pay in Hong Kong in IT&T is about $HK40,000, which is approximately $NZ11,000 per month.”
Most people are paid on a 12-month plus one month bonus system, he says. But since Hong Kong is expensive, their standard of living and how much they save will depend on their lifestyle. “If you want a big apartment and foreign foods, you’ll spend a lot of money.” The shopping is “amazing”, he says, and close-by China offers cheap shopping. Sloan says the careful can save well, aided by a 15% top tax rate. A $HK1 million ($270,000) salary means professionals can “live like a king” and save a fortune.
Many expats congegrate in certain suburbs. “It is kind of a concrete jungle but you get used to it,” Sloan says. However, good salaries mean people can travel through Asia on long weekends, of which there are plenty, as Hong Kong has 21 public holidays.
Sloan says the Chinese one nation, two systems strategy is working well, with British law in place until 2047.
But one major difference to working in New Zealand is the longer hours — from 9am to 7pm — and the pace of life.
“They move on decisions a lot quicker up here. It’s the quick and the dead; you either perform or you’re out. The Chinese are a little more guarded and keep things to themselves, but once you make friends with them they really open up to you.”
For Kiwis to qualify, they must have “exceptional” IT&T qualifications or be sponsored. Sponsorship ensures “a painless process”.
“You must have a tertiary qualification, IT certifications and be in senior roles, otherwise you really won’t get offered opportunities up here. Usually people will have five-plus years’ experience in senior roles,” he says. But if you get through, Sloan speaks of a “really good lifestyle”.
“Hong Kong is easy to get around, it is very safe, lower crime, you can wander the streets late at night, no problems. Many ex-pats have home help, which means you have more free time to do things and there is a good night life and very active social scene.” He says there are excellent schools and facilities for children, and most locals can speak at least a little English.
Greenwood is a Computerworld journalist. Send email to Darren Greenwood.