(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong and Greater Bay Area executives have become more upbeat on hiring this year as the city emerges from its strict Covid controls, according to a survey.

Some 44% of company chiefs, including C-suite and human resources executives, expected to increase staff numbers in Hong Kong this year, up from 40% last year, according to the annual Hong Kong Executive Salary Outlook Survey released by KPMG on Thursday.

Still, among the six sectors the survey took the temperature on, the number of financial services and real estate executives who expect to increase headcount dropped from last year. The survey had about 1,330 respondents in Hong Kong and in mainland China cities in the Greater Bay Area.

Interviewees said they expected salaries to increase this year, on the backdrop of an average raise of 23% for those who changed jobs during the difficult Covid year in 2022, according to the survey.

“In the tight employment market currently being experienced in Hong Kong, competition for talent will remain strong,” said Murray Sarelius, KPMG China’s people services partner. “This is also feeding through into high expectations of salary increases in 2023 for those industries that are showing the strongest intentions to increase their headcounts.”

Bonuses rose to an average of 2.43 months last year, up from 2.21 months in 2021. But respondents expected a lower bonus this year as they were “mindful of the more challenging global economic climate and have adjusted their expectations,” KPMG said.

Just in recent months major companies from technology giants to Wall Street heavyweights have announced aggressive job cut plans, with the latest banking crisis adding to anxiety. 

Hong Kong itself has lost some 140,000 people following Beijing’s crackdown on protesters and strict pandemic restrictions. The brain drain has caused the city to issue new high-level talent visas and deliver property tax breaks in a bid to stem and reverse the outflow. 

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Some other points from the survey: 

  • Financial services bonus in 2022 averaged at 3.17 months of salary, down from 3.46 months in 2021
  • Professional services bonus was up to 1.5 months last year from 1.47 month in 2021
  • Headcount increases are focused in areas including sales, fee earners and client relations (59%), operations (37%) and IT (35%)

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