Most mainlanders only want to work in Hong Kong short-term, survey finds

Think tank suggests retaining young mainland workers would ease labour shortage - but most say that Hong Kong is ideal only for a brief stay

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 November, 2013, 6:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 November, 2013, 4:41pm

Most mainland postgraduate students and migrant workers in Hong Kong consider the city an ideal place for a short-term career, but few want to stay for the long term.

This has emerged from a study commissioned by the think tank Hong Kong Ideas Centre, which said retaining mainland students and professionals would be a good way of easing the labour shortage.

In the study, conducted by consultancy Actrium Solutions last month, 500 mainlanders who had worked or studied in Hong Kong for less than seven years - and who therefore did not have right of abode - were questioned.

Almost three-quarters said they found Hong Kong an ideal place to work for a short time, while 28 per cent said they saw good long-term career prospects in the city and 39 per cent planned to return to the mainland eventually.

The centre's executive director, Anna Lai Wong Oi-ling, said the findings showed that Hong Kong was still an attractive place for mainland professionals.

"If the base does not change and 28 per cent of these mainland students and workers really stay here for the long-term, it is already good for our development," she said.

Those who did not choose Hong Kong or the mainland named other parts of the world, with the most popular being the United States, Canada and Europe. Tiny percentages of these chose Taiwan or Japan and 1 per cent chose Singapore.

The questionnaire did not specify the length of time for long and short-term stays.

A snowball sampling method was adopted, with an initial group of respondents drawn from a contact list held by the company and more respondents referred by them. All interviews were conducted face-to-face.

Despite conflict over social issues between mainlanders and Hongkongers in recent years, less than a fifth said they felt discriminated against. The biggest problems they reported were poor housing (73 per cent), a language barrier (58 per cent) and lack of friends (39 per cent).

In a consultation paper released last month on ways to boost the labour force, the government suggested upgrading the existing labour import system, among other measures.

The think tank said retaining mainland students and professionals was a good way to relieve the problem. The survey also found 45 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the government's existing policies on attracting mainland talent.

In view of this, Lai said she did not see the need for a major policy change, but she said the government could provide more support for mainlanders, such as co-organising Cantonese courses to help them integrate better.

She also suggested more publicity for immigration arrangements for non-local graduates.