The integration and digital transformation for China’s Greater Bay Area


As one of China’s most economically developed regions with the highest level of reform and opening-up, Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (also known as "the Greater Bay Area") has made its way into the 2017 government’s work report and become a key player as China strives to build world-class city clusters and participates in the global competition. With the progress of industrialization and IT application, digital economy figures prominently in the GDP of the Greater Bay Area. We teamed up with Tsinghua University to release the Digital Economy and Talent Development Report for Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The report analyses talent landscape, talent migration flows and skill demands in the Greater Bay Area. By benchmarking against other world-famous bay areas, the report identifies the international status and talent features of Greater Bay Area.

Talents concentrate more in the east than the west. Overall, talents are more concentrated in the east than the west of the Greater Bay Area, if we use the Pearl River as the demarcation. Top talents (who have a bachelor’s degree and above) and digital talents are mainly found in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, with Shenzhen as the top hub.

Talents mainly major in finance and technical fields of study. Talents in the Greater Bay Area graduate from prestigious universities. Over 25% have overseas learning experience and more than 30% have master’s degrees and above. When it comes to fields of study, financial studies rank among the top, consistent with the Greater Bay Area’s status as the global financial hub. Technical fields of study such as computer science, electrical and electric engineering are also in the lead, suggesting sound educational groundwork has been made for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) growth.

The Greater Bay Area has an overall net inflow of talents. The Greater Bay Area is one of the most attractive hubs for digital talents in China. It shows greater appeal than Beijing and Wuhan and is on par with Shanghai and Chengdu, but lags behind Hangzhou. From a global perspective, the Greater Bay Area holds attraction to global talents, but the appeal should be strengthened.

Talent flows within the area highlight Shenzhen’s key position in the Greater Bay Area. In terms of talent flows within the Greater Bay Area, Shenzhen is the most attractive city to high-level talents and digital talents. For cities other than Shenzhen, brain drain is more pronounced for digital talents than top talents, underlying Shenzhen’s position as the digital economy hub in the Greater Bay Area.

Connectivity between mainland and Hong Kong and Macao is to be activated. Hong Kong’s talent exchange with cities within the Greater Bay Area lags far behind Shenzhen and Guangzhou; Macao stays even further behind. Hence, there is more room for the two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) to strengthen talent exchange with mainland cities. Recent development of the Qianhai Free Trade Zone has well suited the need for further integration between Shenzhen and the SARs. The governments have also put forward favorable policies to incentivize youth from Hong Kong and Macao to come to Shenzhen and develop the “Qianhai model”.

The Greater Bay Area has great innovative and entrepreneurial potential. The Greater Bay Area has the lowest proportion of entrepreneurs compared with San Francisco Bay Area and Sydney Bay Area. This suggests much potential in encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship for the Greater Bay Area. Regarding R&D capability, the Greater Bay Area has a higher proportion of corporate R&D talents, with Shenzhen, the leader in scientific innovation, having over 90% of corporate R&D talents. So, in terms of innovation capacity, a feature of the Greater Bay Area is strong corporate creativity and weak academic research ability on the part of universities.

A talent pool provides sustained momentum. When it comes to education degree, the Greater Bay Area ranks the last compared with San Francisco Bay Area and Sydney Bay Area. In particular, it has the smallest proportion of talents with doctor degrees, suggesting room for improvement. Regarding age distribution, talents aged between 25 and 34 account for the biggest share for all of the three bay areas, with the Greater Bay Area having the highest ratio. The remarkably young talent pool will inject strong momentum and potential to the Greater Bay Area.

By analyzing talent features and strengths of the Greater Bay Area and its core cities, the report paves the way for promoting its internal integration and seeking the best model for talent concentration and flows. Furthermore, the report benchmarks against world-famous bay areas in an effort to help local governments to plan for talent cultivation, build core talent competitiveness and help the Greater Bay Area become one of the world-class leaders.

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