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Scramble on for top-notch talent

Updated: 2011-09-09 16:05

By Alexis Hooi (China Daily)

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Shenzhen floats 'peacock plan' with incentives to attract more talented professionals

Authorities in Shenzhen are upping the ante in the fight for top talent to fuel the development of one of the country's fastest growing cities.

At a recent human resources forum for members of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Shenzhen, Gao Tengshuang from Shenzhen's foreign experts affairs division under its human resource and social security bureau introduced the incentives under its "peacock plan" for drawing talented professionals to the southern city.

Advantages and privileges for foreign and domestic talent who make the cut include cash allowances of up to 1.5 million yuan (165,000 euros, $234,800), tax breaks, comprehensive medical benefits and educational allowances and subsidies for children studying in local schools. Talented professionals who choose to work and stay in Shenzhen will also enjoy preferential policies for obtaining residence permits.

Foreigners willing to give up their respective citizenships to set up home in the city will also be able to obtain Chinese citizenship in return.

"The peacock plan to attract top talent at home and abroad to contribute to Shenzhen is an ongoing process and we will adjust the policy and conditions, including the budget and time frames, to make it more attractive," Gao says.

"We are already looking at the applications of 300 to 400 people for the plan."

Shenzhen, which borders the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, is one of the richest cities in the country. It was designated as a special economic zone after the country's reform and opening-up in the late 1970s and has since grown to become a manufacturing hub and business center with its own stock exchange.

Shenzhen's GDP grew 12 percent year-on-year to 951.09 billion yuan last year, official figures show. Many enterprises in Hong Kong have used Shenzhen to tap the extensive resources of the Chinese hinterland and the Pearl River Delta to help the region become an economic powerhouse of the country fueled initially by low-cost manufacturing.

The city is now banking on its lead in the high-tech, financial services, shipping, foreign trade and manufacturing sectors to fuel the next stage of its development. It has set high standards for the talent it hopes to attract under its peacock plan, including "scientists, inventors, or researchers of an international stature who have made great contributions to their respective fields".

Martijn van der Woude, who runs the Shenzhen-based human resources company ShangZhi HR Solutions, says the latest plan by the city to attract talent will have to cater better to the needs of its foreign community if it wants to succeed. This includes providing better educational facilities such as international schools for expatriates and offering lower taxes that are competitive with those in Hong Kong.

"If you attract high talent, they will also look for good schools for their children because they also have high standards for their children. There are just a handful of international schools here in Shenzhen, almost all are American, and that is a completely different situation from Hong Kong. As for taxes, those in Hong Kong can be just 15 percent, much lower than what might be offered in Shenzhen," says van der Woude, who is originally from the Netherlands and arrived in Shenzhen about a year ago.

But Shenzhen is still the place to be because of its rising importance for the Chinese market and the speed of its growth compared, for instance, to its more developed neighbor Hong Kong, van der Woude says.

"Every week I'm in Hong Kong and I do a lot of business there. People always feel sorry for me because I live in Shenzhen. But I say 'hey, if you want to be successful in China, you cannot live on the balcony and look down at this part of the country'.

"You have to be there yourself. That's why I live in Shenzhen, not in Hong Kong. The schools in Hong Kong are better, the taxes are lower, but you miss the opportunities."


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