Overcoming Career Challenges of Hong Kong Young People in the Greater Bay Area

Youth I.D.E.A.S. 39

Employment and Economic Development

Overcoming Career Challenges of Hong Kong Young People in the Greater Bay Area

26 February, 2019



The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area, GBA) comprises the nine municipalities of Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhaoqing, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Huizhou, Zhuhai, Zhongshan and Jiangmen in Guangdong Province and the two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao (known as 9+2). Its total area is 55,904 km2 and the total population was 69.58 million in 2017. Both figures exceed those of the three other main Bay Areas in the World (New York Metropolitan Area, San Francisco Bay Area and Tokyo Bay Area). The GDP of the GBA was US$1,513.42 billion in 2017, slightly behind the New York Metropolitan Area and Tokyo Bay Area.[1]


The Chinese central government incorporated the construction of the GBA into the national development paper of the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) in 2015. The Group for Employment and Economic Development of the Youth I.D.E.A.S. studied the role of Hong Kong as a “super-connector” in the BRI and showed that Hong Kong has a solid foundation to connect the Mainland with foreign countries. It will have the competency to develop itself into a super-connector for the BRI if its merits can be further strengthened.


Following the national development strategy of the BRI, the National Development and Reform Commission and the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao signed the Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Cooperation in the Development of the Greater Bay Area (The Framework Agreement) in July 2017, which states that there should be a division of labour according to the industrial expertise of the three regions. The State Council further promulgated the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (The Outline) in February this year to set out specific development goals for the GBA. The above two papers specifically mentioned the establishment of experimental zones for entrepreneurship and employment for Hong Kong and Macao youth in Qianhai of Shenzhen, Nansha of Guangzhou and Hengqin of Zhuhai. In addition, some studies have pointed out that the strength of Hong Kong can open up more opportunities in finance, innovation and technology, supply chain management, professional services and logistics. It can also support the construction of the BRI.[2]


According to the statistics of the Census and Statistics Department of the HKSAR Government,[3] the number of young people aged 15-39 staying in Guangdong Province for a short period due to work or business operations, together with those staying for a longer period for any reason, is estimated to be at least 192,900. This figure indicates that a significant number of Hong Kong young people were already working in Guangdong Province before the specific policies and measures of The Outline were launched. It is believed that the number of Hong Kong young people who have the opportunity to set up a business or to take up employment in the GBA will increase when the relevant policies are further implemented.


However, since there are three markedly different political, administrative and economic systems in the GBA, many barriers to cooperation remain. These include the flow of people, goods, capital and information, such as tax issues and social security.[4] Therefore, Hong Kong young people face many problems arising from differences in institution and culture if they want to seize the opportunity and develop their career in Guangdong Province.


This study discusses the desires, views, opportunities and challenges of Hong Kong young people who seek to develop their career in the GBA. The focus is on the barriers faced by those who wish to set up a business or to take up employment in Guangdong Province. An attempt is made to give concrete recommendations to alleviate these barriers so as to provide greater choice for the career development of Hong Kong young people.


Data were collected using three methods in December 2018 and January 2019: an on-site survey of 522 Hong Kong working youth aged 18-39; case interviews with 20 young people aged 18-39 who travel frequently to the nine municipalities of Guangdong Province due to work; and interviews with six experts, scholars and relevant parties.



  1. The entire GBA region has enormous economic potential. The expert interviewees generally believe that with the implementation of the GBA policy, the opportunities for Hong Kong people to set up a business and to take up employment in Guangdong Province will increase. About 70% of the working youth surveyed believe that the GBA has a positive impact on Hong Kong’s economic and personal development, but some are worried about the greater competition and the adaptation difficulties which may arise.
  2. Hong Kong young people will be competitive if they develop their career in the GBA. Guangdong Province has also provided policy incentives for Hong Kong young people to set up businesses there. Though the young respondents generally believe that there is opportunity for setting up businesses and developing careers in the GBA, they do not understand the relevant support and incentives.
  3. There are different types of barriers to setting up businesses and taking up employment in the GBA for Hong Kong young people.

    3.1 A lack of coordination in the commercial system and in the policy for setting up businesses, which, together with the unstable policy environment, mean greater risk for entrepreneurs.

    3.2 Complex commercial procedures, unclear information and complications in withdrawing and transferring money cause inconvenience to entrepreneurs and discourage them from setting up businesses.

    3.3 High tax rates and a worldwide taxation policy discourage some Hong Kong young people from deciding to work in Mainland China.

  4. The commercial system and the policy for setting up businesses in different cities need to be further coordinated on the basis of one country, two systems policy in order to enhance the overall strength of the GBA. Meanwhile, the relevant policy and information need to be more transparent, the procedures for business and employment need to be simplified, and tax concessions should also be provided.



  1. Set up a Greater Bay Area Coordination Bureau to take charge of coordination of concrete affairs between the 9+2 cities.

    1.1 Provide a one-stop information platform to make available practical information on business and employment within the GBA.

    1.2 Simplify different kinds of business procedures within the GBA and make available relevant information in addition to providing online applications.

  2. Set up a Hong Kong Youth Entrepreneurship and Employment Promotion Office to help young people establish start-ups or find jobs in the GBA.
  3. Young Hong Kong entrepreneurs and employees who meet certain requirements should be allowed to pay income tax to the Mainland government at Hong Kong rates.
  4. The cap for transferring money out of the Mainland should be raised to US$100,000 per year for Hong Kong employees.
  5. Connect the electronic payment services of Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macao






[1] HKTDC. (2018). “Statistics of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area”. Research, June 22, 2018.

[2] Legislative Council Secretariat. (2018). “GBA: Opportunities and challenges of Hong Kong.” Fact Sheet, FS04/17-18.

[3] Source: Census and Statistics Department. A round of thematic household surveys was conducted between September and December 2013 by the Department to collect information related to characteristics of Hong Kong residents spending short periods in Mainland China. The number of Hong Kong residents aged 15-39 usually staying in Guangdong at the end of 2017 was also estimated by the Department.

[4] Legislative Council Secretariat. (2018). “GBA: Opportunities and challenges of Hong Kong.” Fact Sheet, FS04/17-18.