Non-Chinese speakers face disadvantage in job market: survey

May 03, 2016 11:04
Those who do not have Chinese language proficiency have lesser opportunities in the local job market, the survey showed. Photo: HKEJ

Language barrier often constitutes a major obstacle to non-Chinese speakers in Hong Kong when it comes to employment opportunities, a survey showed.

Among the 1,500 jobs surveyed, 49 percent  explicitly required spoken Cantonese, 51 percent required written Chinese and 26 percent required spoken Putonghua, according to the survey conducted by Hong Kong Unison Ltd., a non-governmental organization focusing on serving ethnic minority residents and their families in the city.

Only one out of the 1,500 job postings explicitly mentioned that speaking Cantonese is not a requirement for the position, the group said.

"Those who do not have Chinese language proficiency have lesser opportunities in the local job market," it said.

The research surveyed 1,500 internet job postings in April 2014 and December 2015 from 16 Hong Kong-based internet job search databases.

The jobs that required spoken Cantonese and those requiring written Chinese largely overlap.

About 43.1 percent of the job ads required both spoken Cantonese and written Chinese while less than 0.5 percent indicated either spoken Cantonese or written Chinese is not required or preferred.

Most of the jobs that did not explicitly state Chinese language requirements still expected job seekers to have command of the Chinese language.

Among the 82 telephone calls the group made to clarify Chinese language requirements, 66 percent required job applicants to know spoken Cantonese while only 12 percent explained that they did not require Cantonese skills.

Similarly, 67 percent of employers that did not state their Chinese writing requirements clarified that they indeed required the skill and only 10 percent said that they did not require Chinese writing skills.

Also, many job ads are inaccessible to job seekers who cannot read Chinese.

About 16 percent were written in Chinese only while 22 percent were partially bilingual but had essential information written in Chinese only.

When combined, 39 percent of the job ads surveyed was inaccessible to non-Chinese reading job seekers.

Job seekers who do not know Chinese only has 19 percent of all advertised jobs available to them, the survey showed. 

The ability to speak other languages may not offset the disadvantage of not knowing Chinese.

Among the 1,500 job ads surveyed, less than 2 percent listed a preference or requirement for a language other than English or Chinese.

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