No one would dispute that the Greater Bay Area (GBA) is full of economic potential. Various publications have repeatedly reported statistics pointing to a rapid development of the large-scale and vibrant economy in the region. It is important for the Hong Kong community to understand the opportunities and take part in the development of the GBA region, as the growth of the region is expected to further benefit Hong Kong. The question is how we can encourage Hong Kong residents, especially the youth, to explore the opportunities in Mainland cities in the GBA.
To develop effective strategies for encouraging youths to move to live and/or work in Mainland GBA cities, we draw on migration literature in social sciences. For a number of decades, migration has been a major topic of investigation for anthropologists, economists, geographers, political scientists and sociologists. Studies in general suggest that moving to live and/or work in another location is a major decision for most individuals. According to the migration literature, people decide to move when they see the benefits of migration outweigh the costs.
Their decision is affected by, first, the information they received about potential destinations and, second, their evaluation of the information they received based on their situation. However, the cost of migration can be reduced in two major situations. One is when the potential migrant has social networks or interpersonal ties with people at the destination. The other is when the potential migrant is familiar with the culture and social arrangement of the destination society. Based on this understanding of migration, we suggest three aspects that may facilitate the youth in Hong Kong to consider moving to live and/or work in Mainland GBA cities.
First, the accessibility to social networks at destination can substantially reduce the cost of such migration for the youth in Hong Kong. According to a recent study conducted by Yingtong Lai, Kumiko Shibuya, and Eric Fong (2022), having family members, relatives or friends working in the Mainland is significantly and positively related to the intention of working-age adults in Hong Kong to move to Mainland GBA cities.
While individuals may feel uncertain and sometimes insecure about such a move, having friends, relatives, or colleagues who are living or working in the Mainland can help them reduce their uncertainty as well as possible anxiety. More importantly, these potential migrants know that they can rely on people in their network for information and help after their move. They can also expect that the time, energy and money required for their adjustment to the new environment can be reduced with the help of their social network. As a result, the cost of migration is reduced for those who have social networks at the destination.
Therefore, helping the youth in Hong Kong to develop social networks or strengthen existing networks with people in the Mainland can enhance their interest in moving to live and/or work in Mainland GBA cities.
Professional associations and companies should organize events to help youths develop their social and professional networks in the Mainland. Such an opportunity should be offered to both those who are considering a move as well as those who have already moved there. For potential migrants, having social networks at the destination would allow them to better plan for their possible move, thereby reducing the cost of migration and enhancing the benefit of migration. For those who are already there, having access to the local social networks would help them better adjust to the new environment, thereby increasing their likelihood to stay at the destination.
Second, and related to the first point, familiarity with the destination society and the general knowledge of local government policies in Mainland GBA cities can raise the intention of the youth in Hong Kong to move to live and/or work there. Familiarity with the local environment includes knowing social institutions and culture at the destination. Such knowledge can help newcomers to navigate through the unfamiliar and new environment. It also makes it easier for newcomers to blend into the local system and culture.
It is crucial to organize activities to provide information not only about policies and regulations in Mainland GBA cities but also operations of the institutions. For example, we suggest that the Government and companies set up mobile applications to supply young people with comprehensive information on settlement matters so that they can find relevant information easily.
The provision of a one-stop service, instant online support, and inquiry chat box are important features of such applications. These can also be tailored to serve the different needs of people, providing information by specific industry, occupation, or company. Equally important, these activities can facilitate communication between people already in Mainland GBA cities and youths in Hong Kong, leading to efficient information sharing among them of first-hand experiences about their daily lives in Mainland GBA cities. The latter type of information can help the youth to translate their knowledge of policies and regulations into practical applications if they move to a Mainland GBA city. These activities should also be organized for those who have already moved so that they can make sense of their current experience and smoothly adjust to the local environment.
Third, improving the understanding of specific policies and regulations in the Mainland regarding business operations and financial transactions can raise the intention of people to move to work in Mainland GBA cities. Many people working in these cities may not be familiar with the policies and regulations. Furthermore, many of them do not know where to seek help on these matters, and have difficult experiences as a result. The story of their difficulties and negative experiences can influence the decision of the youth in Hong Kong who are considering a move to Mainland GBA cities.
Therefore, efforts have to be made to help those who have already moved to Mainland cities in the GBA have better access to such essential information, so that they can have a positive experience with staying there. In turn, their favourable experience with adjusting to the new environment can shape the intention of youngsters in Hong Kong who are considering such a move.
Finally, setting up mentorship programs for young people in a new workplace is important for their adaptation to a new environment as it is always useful to have colleagues with experience to consult with. However, these mentorship programs should begin before people move to a Mainland GBA city. The programs should include meetings and other activities with a mentor to establish clear understanding of the new working and living environment. This relationship with the mentor should continue even after the move, and mentors can continue providing support and encouragement to those who have started working in the Mainland GBA city.
Although we are aware that some mentorship and internship programs have recently become available, we have to emphasize that the scale of such programs should be large enough to encompass more youths in Hong Kong considering moving to live or work in Mainland GBA cities.
In summary, providing the youth in Hong Kong with more information about Mainland GBA cities, reducing uncertainty associated with migration, and helping them to become familiar with the destination society and its culture are effective strategies for increasing young people’s intention to move to live and/or work in Mainland GBA cities. Having more young people work in Mainland GBA cities would benefit both individuals looking for opportunities and the economy in Hong Kong.
Eric Fong, Chair Professor in Sociology, Head, Department of Sociology, The University of Hong Kong
References: Yingtong Lai, Kumiko Shibuya, and Eric Fong. 2022. “The Intention to Migrate from More Developed to Less Developed Areas: Evidence from Hong Kong” Asian Population Studies 18(2): 129-149.