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Who wins talent will reign: Talent acquisition and mobility vital to Greater Bay Area success


About the survey

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) conducted a survey with its members in Hong Kong and southern China in late 2018 to examine talent mobility in the Greater Bay Area (GBA), understanding their readiness to work in the region, the drivers of their decision-making, and the measures that could enhance talent mobility in the region. Some marked differences and findings identified are worth consideration by business leaders and policymakers.

Altogether 351 responses were received, of which 197 (56%) of respondents come from Hong Kong, and 154 (44%) respondents are from members based in southern China.

Among all the respondents, 192 (55%) are currently working in Hong Kong; 126 (36%) are working in one of the other 10 GBA cities; and 33 (9%) are working in a non-GBA city in mainland China.

Finding 1 - Hong Kong talents tend to stay and work in Hong Kong vs mainland talents’ preferences to leave their hometown for career

Finding 2 - Driving forces behind working in the GBA

Finding 3 - Frequent traveling is preferred over relocation

Finding 4 - Measures to improve talent mobility – tax deduction on top of the wish list by both Hong Kong and mainland respondents

Finding 5 - Young professionals below 40 raised different concerns


Tapping into ACCA’s strong member network in the Southern China including Hong Kong, this report has examined the current situation in regards to the mobility of talents between Hong Kong and other mainland cities. Meanwhile, when we highlight talent is important for the successful development of the GBA, the concept of talent mobility and acquisition should not be narrowly defined as relocating talent between Hong Kong and other GBA cities. With GBA’s lofty goals to become a world-class economic zone, it should take a wider perspective that the entire GBA should appeal to global talents and attract them to work in the GBA, including Hong Kong. Efforts towards harnessing collective strengths of each of the 11 cities are the keys to the coordinated growth of the entire bay area.

Our newly established ACCA GBA Advisory Board has come up with the following recommendations in enhancing talent acquisition and mobility:

a. Maintaining an open mindset for realising career aspirations

One’s vision and ambition define one’s success. Talent should be opportunity-driven. If a place offers them opportunities to shine and room to develop, they should go after it.

Instead of restricting themselves to work in their home cities, talent should maintain open minded and embrace opportunities wherever they present themselves. The market is becoming globalised, so as the workplace. While people sitting in one part of the world can easily make purchases of goods or enjoy entertainment produced by another part of the world through internet, career opportunities can also be sought across the border. The key point is not to debate ‘relocation or not’. The question should be: are there career prospects / business opportunities? We recommend talents to maintain an open mindset, appreciate collaboration amidst different cultures, keep abreast of the latest development of the GBA and exploit opportunities to their own advantage.

b. Optimising each city’s competitive edges to offer different career opportunities for different types of talent

As an international financial centre, trading centre and shipping centre, Hong Kong has an efficient and well-regulated capital market that offers an excellent platform for attracting investments and raising capitals. This may appeal to professional staff working in the finance and business sector. Shenzhen has now emerged as a technology hub and is home to tech giants like Tencent, Huawei and ZTE etc, thus may offer more job openings to people working in the technology and innovation sector. Guangzhou is the provincial business centre to support the large manufacturing base of the Pearl River Delta economic zone (PRD), which demands significant support in branding, international marketing and product design and development. Talent working in relevant fields can choose the appropriate cities and industries that match with their expertise and offer the greatest career development potential.

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government is recommended to take the lead and collaborate with other provincial governments to conduct thorough researches and studies by industries and business sectors to examine the strength and talent needs of each city in detail, which can be promoted to the talents around the world, and drive the coordinated growth of different sectors and cities in the GBA.

c. Offering internships to students and young working adults

To nurture talents and attract the right candidates, the best way is to offer them short term internship opportunities. This is a mutual assessment exercise. On one hand it can facilitate the candidates’ understanding of the industries and, on the other hand, it allows the organisations to assess the job fit of the candidates.

We recommend large corporations in the 11 cities offer short term internship programmes to universities students and young working adults. These would encourage talent acquisition and exchange among the 11 cities. Provincial governments can help publish, sponsor and promote these internship programmes and introduce measures to facilitate the working visa application process.

d. Upskilling and educating the workforce

To facilitate the development of the GBA, talents of different industries and skillsets are required. The governments, education institutions and industry organisations can take the lead to provide training programmes and seminars to upskill the workforce.

ACCA is committed to equipping our members with finance and management knowledge that help business strive, preparing them to embrace business and career opportunities in the world, including in, but not limited to, the GBA. We have, and will continue, to organise seminars and workshops to upskill our members, groom them to become the highly sought-after talent, demonstrate the business opportunities presented in the GBA, get professional or entrepreneurs to share their experiences and success stories and invite government authorities to provide practical guidelines and advices on setting up and running businesses in the GBA.

We encourage collaborations among different businesses and the community to help groom our talents and expand our talent base for GBA’s long-term growth.


The Greater Bay Area (GBA) initiative is a master plan to integrate the 11 cities into a world-class innovation hub. To achieve global competitiveness, the GBA needs to attract and retain the top talent from around the world to contribute to this transformation.

In order to tap into the global talent pool, apart from offering various favourable monetary or tax measures that could appeal to different groups of talent, the city cluster as a whole needs to develop an eco-system that can attract and nurture global talent – the former is easier than the latter.

The GBA cities must collaborate in providing an environment on par with other world’s leading bay areas, which can satisfy global talent’s needs at work and in daily life. These include, but not limited to, cultivating innovative culture, maintaining open mindset, embracing open thinking and transparent conversations, increasing tolerance of errors, allowing different opinions and embracing diversity. These cultural changes would not happen overnight. Yet if the authorities and cities are determined and be able to identify the real drivers of success, the GBA would one day become one of the most successful bay areas in the world.


Please click to read full report.

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