Hong Kong looks abroad to solve manpower crisis
Move comes two months after Singapore announced a major push to boost immigration in the face of falling birth rates and an ageing population
A committee headed by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will look at ways to replenish the city's workforce from "sources outside Hong Kong" to tackle a manpower shortage.
The announcement comes less than two months after Singapore announced a major push to boost immigration in the face of a looming economic crisis caused by falling birth rates and an ageing population.
The Lion City's plans led to calls for Hong Kong, which has the same problems, to get its act together on population policy.
A document prepared by Lam's office and spelling out the committee's role was submitted to the Legislative Council's House Committee.
The paper - to be discussed by legislators tomorrow - does not say whether the government plans to loosen the rules on employing foreign workers.
But it does say the committee will look at the importation of low-skilled workers, and consider encouraging Hongkongers and their children who have settled on the mainland or overseas to return to Hong Kong.
The vital role of new arrivals from the mainland settling in Hong Kong under the one-way permit scheme is also to be examined.
The paper adds that the committee will review whether "existing schemes for admis sion of talents and labour can meet the needs of Hong Kong in view of the future economic development".
It says the Steering Committee on Population Policy agrees with the need to address several population issues.
These include the slowdown in population growth, with numbers projected to increase by an average of just 0.6 per cent a year to 8.47 million in mid-2041.
Meanwhile, the number of people aged 65 or over will rise from 0.98 million last year to 2.56 million in 2041. The workforce will also begin to shrink after 2018, from 3.55 million in 2018 to 3.39 million in 2041.
"When the labour force starts to shrink after 2018, it will be difficult to maintain the same rate of economic growth as in the past, unless Hong Kong's economy can further enhance its productivity," the document says.