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The Greater Bay Area Initiative: Connecting A Region Through Shared Interests

27 December, 2018
  • Jackson Kam

    Career Practice Leader, Talent Strategy, Mercer, Hong Kong

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“A fair distribution of pay and opportunity is essential to ensuring the free movement of talent in China's Greater Bay Area region.”

It is human nature to disagree. From how to make the perfect soup dumpling to which system of government works best, people have always perceived the world (and dumplings) in different ways. Our propensity to disagree makes China’s Greater Bay Area (GBA) Initiative a marvel of human collaboration. The GBA Initiative is an ambitious plan to connect 11 municipalities spanning the Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macau—and align their financial, cultural, geographic and governmental interests.  A daunting, yet immensely exciting challenge, indeed.

Background: From Grand Idea to Modern Reality

In a 2017 government report released by Premier Li Keqiang, China officially announced its intentions to move forward with plans to develop the GBA—which, before that point, had only been theoretical. The idea was first introduced in the 2011 study, “The Action Plan for the Bay Area of the Pearl River Estuary.” This directive from Beijing thrust the plan into the international spotlight, outlining the “city cluster” strategy that leverages the distinct financial, cultural and economic assets of the 11 participating municipalities.1 However, though the region may be geographically close, the participating societies are remarkably different.

For example, differences in regulatory instruments and policies, business practices and tax structures, and cultural perspectives and priorities present challenges to creating a seamless and streamlined alignment of resources and capabilities. The key to success for the GBA is the free flow of everything from talent and information to capital and resources. Significant progress has already been made. China has built the 55-kilometer Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and expanded the high-speed rail network into Hong Kong. This infrastructure represents only part of a sweeping initiative to facilitate the free flow and exchange of ideas, capital and resources. 


(Source: Research Gate_W Martin de Jong)

 

Aligning Cultural and Economic Differences

Convincing each of the 11 municipalities in the GBA to pursue regional business objectives while prioritizing the well-being of the collective group will require some savvy and diplomatic governance. There will be hurdles to aligning the legal, economic, technical, workforce and geographic complexities of the initiative.2 Companies in the GBA region must be open to innovative thinking. Leaders and policymakers must explore a variety of strategies and business models, from joint ventures and strategic partnerships to mergers and acquisitions. Each region must embrace these issues with a focus on long-term success.

The scope of cooperation and transparency required by the GBA is enormous. The comprehensive framework ensures there will be agreeable mechanisms in place to solve disputes on everything from workforce immigration legalities and environmental policies to project development benchmarks and operational standards. However, today, this complex relationship is largely theoretical as many companies from all over the GBA region continue to navigate cultural, regulatory and operational differences. It will take time to integrate the key processes that directly impact cross-border talent. For example, sometimes Mainland staff who work in Hong Kong are stuck in Shenzhen or Guangzhou for days or even weeks as they await visa extensions. Examples like these demonstrate the role human capital plays in the success of the GBA Initiative. Ultimately, figuring out how to manage human capital across borders and cultures will be critical.

To address these realities, many multinational companies are increasingly hiring Mainland graduates who studied in Hong Kong universities. These graduates are familiar with cultures in both markets, making them suitable to work on GBA-related assignments. Additionally, many companies are actively working to manage the disruption caused by entrenched but disparate policies: differences in salaries, tax regimes, medical benefits and the quality of education available to employees and their families. A fair distribution of pay and opportunity is essential to ensuring the free movement of talent in the GBA region.

Leveraging the Power of Compromise

Perhaps the most impressive policy achievement that contributed to the development of the GBA was resolving the territorial disputes between Hong Kong and Shenzhen over the Lok Mau Chau Loop.3 This swath of territory, both geographically and symbolically, separated the people and ideals of western-influenced Hong Kong from the Beijing-centric interests and culture of Shenzhen. The most poignant aspect of this agreement is the display of a true willingness by both parties to compromise in order to advance their interests.

The Chinese mainland, after all, offers Hong Kong access to one of the world’s most lucrative marketplaces. For Shenzhen, Hong Kong is the gateway to the global economy. This agreement serves as a proof of concept for the entire initiative – finding creative ways to work together to navigate cultural differences and seemingly divergent business priorities. Together, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau can create a revolutionary geographic center for technological innovation, financial influence and international trade. The stakes are high, and the whole world is watching.

The GBA, after having surpassed the San Francisco Bay region, ranks second in terms of global GDP for bay-area regions, behind only Tokyo Bay. In fact, with a current GDP of US $13 trillion and a population of 70 million, the GBA region represents 12 percent of China’s entire economy.4 With vastly different political, financial and institutional systems in place, people infrastructure will be key to sustainable and equitable growth for the collective region. Effective cross-pollination requires cutting-edge insights from human capital management experts, thoughtful business leaders and government policymakers. For those of us with expertise in the region, this initiative offers groundbreaking opportunities to build partnerships and negotiate unparalleled collaborations in southern China.

It’s all about compromise, except when it comes to soup dumplings; real soup dumplings have 18 pleats. Just ask your mom. 

For more information on human capital management in China visit: Mercer (Mercer China).

 

 

1News Analysis: New Opportunities For Hong Kong in Emerging ...
www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-03/11/c_136121179.htm

2China's Greater Bay Area Puts Hong Kong in the Lead As Super Connector To the World
https://www.dorsey.com/newsresources/publications/client-alerts/2018/02/chinas-greater-bay-area-puts-hong-kong-in-the-lead

3Hong Kong’s Startup Scene: the Future Of Mainland–hong ...
www.china-briefing.com/news/2017/08/08/hong-kongs-startup-scene...

4 China Is Building 19 'supercity Clusters'
Andrew Sheng-Xiao Geng- Fung Global Institute- University of Hong Kong - https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/09/how-cities-are-saving-china

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Abdulaziz Alajlan | 17 Oct 2019

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"Saudi Arabia's 'Vision 2030': Will It Save Or Sink the Middle East?" E-International Relations, 10 Jul. 2018, https://www.e-ir.info/2018/07/10/saudi-arabias-vision-2030-will-it-save-or-sink-the-middle-east/. 5. "Saudi Arabia Vision — Goals and Objectives." GO-Gulf, 14 Jul. 2016,https://www.go-gulf.com/blog/saudi-arabia-vision-2030/.

Patrick Hyland, PhD | 17 Oct 2019

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"Are Leaders' Well-being, Behaviours and Style Associated with the Affective Well-being of Their Employees? A Systematic Review of Three Decades of Research." An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations, Volume 24, Issue 2, 2010,https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02678373.2010.495262. 2. Appelbaum, Steven and Roy-Girard, David. "Toxins in the Workplace: Affect on Organizations and Employees." Corporate Governance International Journal of Business in Society, 2007,https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242349375_Toxins_in_the_workplace_Affect_on_organizations_and_employees. 3. Scott, Elizabeth. "Traits and Attitudes That Increase Burnout Risk." Very Well Mind, May 20, 2019,https://www.verywellmind.com/mental-burnout-personality-traits-3144514. 4. Kashdana, Todd B. and Rottenberg, Jonathan. "Psychological Flexibility as a Fundamental Aspect of Health." Elsevier, Volume 30, Issue 7, November 2010,https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735810000413?via%3Dihub.

Dr. Avneet Kaur | 03 Oct 2019

The use of on-site clinics has been growing in recent years, with businesses realizing the potential for giving access to quality and timely care to contribute to an increase in productivity, reduce absenteeism and improve employee health. But, are you reaping the full benefits of your on-site clinics? Or, are you just focused on meeting legislative requirements? There are three key things you can do to unlock the full potential of your on-site clinics. In a recent Worksite Medical Clinics Survey, employers with on-site clinics saw a return on investment (ROI) of 1.5 or higher. If you're not seeing similar returns, it may be because your on-site clinic isn't moving beyond basic requirements. Create a Patient-centered Clinic   Ensure the services offered by the clinic are suited to your employees. This will eliminate unnecessary spend on under-utilized services and steer you toward investments that will bring a greater sense of satisfaction, positive health outcomes for your employees and, consequently, a positive impact on your bottom line. Understand what your employee population looks like — in terms of age, gender and nature of work — as this will play a large role in understanding what type of health and social care services, as well as specialists, are needed. In addition to demographic information, it's critical to understand the health needs of your employees — for instance, which common illnesses are prevalent and need to be better managed and which key lifestyle risks need to be averted through education or preventative services. Communicate the Value   The adage of "if you build it, they will come" might not be the best way to yield the desired ROI in this case. It's important to shape communications around services offered on-site by highlighting the value they bring to employees: convenience and easy access to care, coordination and orientation toward quality providers, early detection of illnesses, etc. Effective communication will bring increased utilization and early detection, maximizing your investment as an employer while also contributing to the well-being of your employees. On-site Clinic: The Wellness Hub   When on-site clinics are designed and managed correctly, there's a high return for both employer and employee. Well-designed clinics can play a real gatekeeping role, coordinating employee pathways toward high quality providers and wellness vendors. They can also directly provide prevention and employee education services, which are key to avoid acute and costly care events. At Mercer, we help clients implement the 4-C model of effective on-site clinic management. This extends the value of your clinic from meeting legislative requirements to allowing employers to deliver quality health services that focus on value to the employee. To maximize your on-site clinic, reach out to us today.

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