Major Global Financial Hubs Still Aren't Seeing Employees Returning To The Office

That hinges on whether or not "the government being able to persuade more citizens to take the vaccine," Bloomberg writes. Daily infection numbers have hovered near zero for weeks and office attendance has "nearly" returned to pre-pandemic levels. The city is grappling with a low vaccination rate, the report notes:

Despite being one of the few places in the world where vaccines are available to all adults, the 2.75 million doses administered are only enough to fully vaccinate 18.3% of the population, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker—well below Singapore at 28.3% and London at 29.1%.

Vaccine reluctance in Hong Kong reflects a mistrust of the government, as key political freedoms have been eroded following 2019’s unprecedented street protests. The unrest has prompted doubts among companies about the city’s stability as a place to do business. Together with the economic downturn, these concerns have contributed to falling office rents and rising vacancies.

Average daily passenger numbers on major rail routes reached 73% of levels they were at during the same month in 2019. Banks like Goldman Sachs have already re-opened. 

Many people are still working from home in Singapore, in what has become the "default arrangement" for businesses. Singapore locked back down in May after Covid cases spiked to a few dozen a day. 

Office workers that month dropped 23% as a result. Last May, that number dropped 60%. Workers had just started coming back to the office prior to May's lockdown. For example, CapitaLand Integrated Commercial Trust (CICT), recorded 51% of workers back in the office at the time. 

Office vacancy rates show a "slow return" to the office. Rents for the most desirable office space fell for the fifth quarter in a row during the first three months of 2021, the report notes. 

Christine Li, head of research for the Asia Pacific at Knight Frank in Singapore, commented: “Most companies want to bring their staff back to the office on a regular basis, but the world has evolved post-Covid. Offices are becoming an intentional destination just like shopping malls, where people don’t go back all the time to get individual tasks done.”

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