A shrinking job market is making life tough for mainlanders who have long dreamed of building a career in this traditionally trendsetting metropolis.
Instead of a fresh start, many new graduates are now returning home empty handed as the global credit crunch eats into the territory's financial sector.
Experts are predicting the slide will continue.
"The present economic slump has lowered the intention of local employers to hire mainland graduates," Geng Chunya, president of the Hong Kong Association of Mainland Graduates, told China Daily.
New legislation was passed in June granting mainland graduates a 12-month visa exemption to work in Hong Kong.
But their prospects of doing so this year are "not good," Geng added.
He cited the case of one student with a doctor's degree in biochemistry, considered a highly sought after academic credential, who graduated in January and gave up job hunting in Hong Kong within weeks.
Between a-fifth and a-quarter of the 6,500 students who graduated from mainland colleges last year then headed to Hong Kong are estimated to have found employment there. This percentage is set to drop as employers deal with dwindling resources, said Geng.
One financial planner who has temporarily migrated to the territory said that expediency and purse tightening are the new catchwords among his clients, most of whom are financial experts from the mainland.
"My clients have lowered their insurance plans and have adopted a more prudent attitude in investment," said the man, surnamed Ding, who works for insurance firm AIA.
He said the percentage of his business deriving from investment-linked insurance nosedived from 80 percent to 50 percent on-year in 2008, but he expects the horizon to change for the better soon.
"People forgot about the financial crisis in 1997 one or two years later," he said.
Ding said the insurance sector should see an increase hiring in the coming year.
His company alone aims to recruit 3,000 financial planners.
This could see mainlanders switch industries from finance to insurance, he said.
"Mainland graduates can now compete with local graduates," he said.
"Many are tri-lingual and hard-working," he added, referring to their fluency in English, Cantonese and Putonghua.
"The key to success for many is taking the time to understand more about Hong Kong," said Geng, who called on colleges to help mainland graduates with their job searching in the territory.
Source: China Daily