• Thu
  • Oct 16, 2014
  • Updated: 1:33am
NewsHong Kong

Industry leaders warn of serious manpower shortage in Hong Kong

City's workforce problem more serious than the government thinks, say representatives of three key sectors already facing labour shortfalls

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 November, 2013, 6:36am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 November, 2013, 12:52pm


  • Yes: 35%
  • No: 65%
18 Nov 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 448

Hong Kong is facing a far greater manpower shortage than reflected in official projections, according to industry leaders, who fear that government policies will fail to tackle the crisis.

They say the shortfall amounts to tens of thousands of workers in three key sectors identified recently by the government and argue that the labour importation scheme is too rigid and time-consuming. It should either be reformed, or the government should set up a new scheme.

Last month Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said construction, food services and homes for the elderly faced immediate manpower shortages when she launched a consultation to tackle challenges arising from the ageing population.

Representatives from the three industries told the South China Morning Post they feared the government may not have grasped the urgency of the manpower problem.

"I am very worried … if [the government] cannot see the problem the industry is facing, it may make a wrong decision," said Thomas Ho On-sing, president of the Hong Kong Construction Association and chief executive of Gammon Construction.

Figures from the Census and Statistics Department showed there were 82,542 construction site workers across the city as of June, with 1,025 vacancies. A report last year projected that manpower demand would rise by 1.9 per cent on average each year up to 2018.

But Ho said a survey by his association several months ago found a vacancy rate of 15 per cent - meaning a shortfall of more than 10,000 workers.

"A cement mixer with no experience is getting paid HK$1,100 a day. If the demand for workers only goes up by about 1.9 per cent a year, why would they get paid this much?" he said.

He said government expenditure on infrastructure projects had soared from about HK$20 billion in 2008 to HK$70 billion this year, which should have shed light on the pace of manpower demand.

Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, said the food services industry needed 24,000 workers on top of the 240,000 employed now. But the census figures said there were only 11,364 vacancies as of June.

"In the past, a waiter got paid only HK$35 an hour. Now it is difficult to hire one even if you are offering HK$60," Wong said.

He said the number of restaurants had been rising by about 5 per cent a year, and manpower demand should follow this pace. But that's a far cry from the government's projection of 1.3 per cent in the "accommodation and food services" sector.

"The projection is too conservative. It's time for the government to be bold when it plans policies," Wong said.

The chairman of the Elderly Services Association of Hong Kong, Kenneth Chan Chi-yuk, said the city's 500 homes for the elderly needed 5,000 staff on top of the 20,000 already working. Yet census statistics showed there were 2,102 vacancies as of June, up from 855 three years ago.

Chan expressed concern that there was no projection for this industry in the 2018 manpower report. "I have always been worried. The government should pledge that a certain percentage of old people will be getting a place in subsidised homes. It needs long-term planning to tackle the problem," he said.

The census department and the Labour and Welfare Bureau said in a joint reply that the statistical framework adopted in compiling the job vacancies followed international guidelines of the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation.

They said some employers may not be recruiting because they believe they cannot find the right people. Such unfilled posts are therefore not regarded as vacancies, the reply said.

As for the 2018 manpower report, it was compiled with reference to a wide range of statistics, including employers' views on their future manpower requirements collected from a survey, and extensive consultation with business, trade associations and academics.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Instead of low skilled immigration, Hong Kong should do high skilled immigration to avoid falling wages and create more new businesses and entrepreneurship in town.
Free market = prices communicate resource allocation. No need to create 'schemes', just let prices do the talking. Prices make your project economically unviable? Guess what, your project isn't viable under an open economy. Use your brain, think of a new project.
The cartoon says it all.
thomas ho i will pour cement down your throat for free ok? do i have a job you ugly fat sob.
I noticed how Hong Kong can easily be an undesirable city to live in. The streets are overcrowded everyday of the week, horrendous roadside pollution, bad roads overloaded by ugly buses, taxis, trucks and cars, the people seem to have become addicted to the convenience of low cost public transport, not to mention the lack of humanistic urban planning and aesthetics. Any growth can easily be offset by a poor standard of living, eroding the presumed 'Asia's World City' standing.
Great comments. I am really curious to know what Thomas Ho thinks a cement mixer with no experience should be paid daily since it is implied that he seems to think HKD 1100 per day is excessive.
Economics would tell us that:

1) there are probably too many restaurants in the industry, which is why there is such demand for waiters thus driving up the cost of waiters. Solution would be to reduce the number of restaurants. Alternatively, there were too few restaurants in the industry leading to insufficient demand for waiters which is why waiters were underpaid (not paid a living wage).

2) there are probably too many infrastructure and construction projects for the market, which is why there is such demand for construction workers thus driving up the cost of construction workers. Solution would be reduce the number of infrastructure projects at one time and to extend the construction timelines.

A popular Cantonese quote comes to mind: 睇餸食飯/ Watch the dishes you have when you have dinner.
The French government did the same thing in the 1970 's, they let a massive influx of immigrants from North Africa( mainly Algeria/Tunisia/Morooco) to work in low/medium paid jobs, like car factory workers. It was now revealed that it was done on purpose by the cowards of the french government to drag the salaries down of the French Workers in general, but more money for the corrupted free mason elite.
.....and thereby the social rift today
@Mr Ho. said "A cement mixer with no experience is getting paid HK$1,100 a day. If the demand for workers only goes up by about 1.9 per cent a year, why would they get paid this much?"
And how much do you get paid each day Mr Ho?
From where do you derive your conviction that business leaders and managers like yourself have an inalienable right to keep lower-skilled workers on almost slave labour rates, while you continue to enrich yourself at the expense of these people?
If the construction industry is short of labour then the obvious solution is to reduce the amount of unnecessary construction. We hear arguments for example that that a third runway must be built in Hong Kong to provide additional jobs and yet we don’t have the labour to fill those jobs. We, therefore, plainly don’t need the runway or indeed many other white elephant construction projects dreamed up by the construction industry.
The food industry moans about the higher costs of restaurant workers but never a moan is heard from these people about their expenditure on high commercial rents. We don’t need more labour for the food industry, what we need is a fairer distribution of wealth by the workers a larger piece of the cake afforded by landlords receiving less.
so how do you propose the gov to do with ur last point? shoot all the landlords or fix the commercial rentals? I'm all for it if that's possible!!! it's a free economy down here boy :) there seems to be serious shortage of restaurants in HK unless i've been to the wrong side of town.. it takes bloody long time to find a seat everywhere i go!!




SCMP.com Account