Task force addresses manpower crunch in retail industry

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 3:35am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 4:56am

A government task force has rolled out a series of measures to tackle the retail industry's manpower problems, but remains split on whether bosses should be allowed to import staff.

The Task Force on Manpower Development of the Retail Industry, comprising 16 members appointed in March, released its report yesterday.

It advised retail bosses to maintain competitive salaries to attract and retain staff, and to review and appropriately improve employees' working conditions from time to time.

The industry should work on improving its image to attract new blood, the task force recommended in its report.

The government should also consider a dollar-for-dollar matching scheme for firms that, for example, bought machines that could help ease a labour shortage, the report said.

The task-force members, mostly retail bosses, supported allowing employers to import workers through the existing Supplementary Labour Scheme.

The scheme currently excludes 26 job categories, including waiters and shop assistants.

"Such a course is in the overall interest of the economy, and the local workforce should not be affected in principle and in practice," the report said.

But some members also expressed concern that a move to allow the import of labour in the retail industry might mean fewer jobs for locals.

The task force cited earlier government figures showing that the industry was facing a tightening manpower situation.

While its staff numbers grew 27.2 per cent from 208,000 in 2003 to 264,800 in June, its vacancies in the same period also multiplied four times to 8,100.

"The manpower demand has gone up a lot because of a thriving inbound tourism business in Hong Kong," task-force chairman Professor Andrew Chan Chi-fai said.

Chan is also director of the Chinese University's Executive MBA programme.