• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 5:50pm
NewsHong Kong

Government subsidies proposed to end shortage of skilled labour

Proposal for subsidies to help industries hit by a shortage of skilled labour bring in trainees set to be outlined in chief executive's policy address

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 9:07am

Industries hit by a shortage of skilled labour could be offered government subsidies to attract trainees by raising wages.

The idea has arisen with more school-leavers shunning manual jobs to attend university.

A source close to the government believed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying would address the issue in his policy address on January 15.

Sectors set to benefit include electrical work, lift maintenance and car and aircraft repairs.

These are identified as industries struggling to attract young people because of the relatively low starting wages and harsh working environment.

The extent of the subsidies needed was unclear, but the source said the extra costs would be shared by both the administration and employers. "Companies should shoulder some of the responsibility for grooming fresh blood," the source said. "It will alleviate their staffing problems in the long run."

A trainee electrician makes about HK$8,000 a month, less than half the wages of a fully trained and registered colleague.

Typically, it takes about six years to complete the training and apprenticeship.

But demand in the industry is rising because of the many new jobs being created by the expansion of the MTR and construction of the high-speed-rail link to Guangdong.

Wong Kam-fai, chairman of the Electrical Engineering Professional Employees Association, welcomed the idea of subsidies.

He said the industry, which employs about 70,000 people, would have to rely on imported labour if no effort was made to train young locals.

Wong attributed the labour shortage to the increasingly common practice of big companies outsourcing work to contractors.

"Small companies with limited resources don't bother to train newcomers. Their contracts are project-based so they don't have long-term vision," he said.

"On the other hand, parents don't like their children giving up academic study for vocational training. Youngsters don't like working in buildings without air-conditioning or works involving heavy labour."

In the UK, a planned upgrade to utilities infrastructure is set to see spending in the sector surge by £100 billion (HK$1.28 trillion) up to 2023, but companies in the industry say the county lacks the 200,000 skilled workers needed to do the jobs. The UK government has now injected more than £1 billion into a scheme to create 100,000 apprenticeship places.

The Hong Kong government has noted in its population policy the need to change the mentality of Hongkongers who place academic education before vocational training.

It will encourage employers to take a more active role in technical education.

The government hoped to revamp a four-decade-old apprenticeship scheme and tackle challenges brought by an ageing population and shrinking workforce, the source said. It is also determined to use all available local labour before considering importing workers.

The unemployment rate of 15- to 24-year-olds remained high at 9.7 per cent in 2012, compared to the overall average of 3.5 per cent. The figure does not take into account about 30,000 not engaged in employment, education or training, a population policy consultation document released in October showed.



For unlimited access to:

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



This article is now closed to comments

Here's a thought: increase starting wages and improve working conditions. Why should govt subsidize employers for their poor human resource management skills?
NO NO NO, I do not want to see any of MY hard earned TAX money to be given away as corporate welfare! Those corporations have to pay decent wages based on market rates! That would encourage workers to switch fields and learn new things. If they cannot charge enough to pay those wages, they need to raise their contract bids from the very beginning instead of using false advertising tactics of undercutting bids without any connection to real costs. Then, the government can scale back these infrastructure efforts to match what the productive capacity of the market can handle. There is no need to build all those roads all at once.
Let us all say no to corporate welfare!
This is suppose to be 'the No1 free market in the world' - if so then employers in HK do not need government handouts from taxpayers!
The government should put the money in education, special vocational training, not in wage subsidy. Improving working conditions to attract skilled labour is up to the employers.
I completely agree with rpasea below.if a trainee electrician earns 8,000 per month and there are not enough of them according to industry, then the solution is simply for industry to offer a higher wage.

Why should taxpayer money solve the industry's inability or unwillingness to offer decent wages? And who is going to define how many electricians etc is 'enough'?
Increasing starting wages is a start, but should not be subsidized by the government/tax payer. The subsidy is basically a subsidy to the the industry so they can continue to make huge profit at the expense of cheap labour.
Agreed that the mentality of people needs a different perspective, and a good wage for skilled trade will certainly go a long way.
I blame the former polytechnics for becoming snobbish and elevating them themselves to second rate universities. The old higher-diploma courses which comprised more on-job practical training ( including part-time stints with outside companies) produced better trained workers, who were able to actually perform a useful function immediately upon leaving college.
Nowadays "graduates' with their watered-down and debased "degrees" are instilled with the mentality that they are all trained as "managers" and shouldn't get their hands dirty. Only the best and intelligent workers, who have proven themselves within industry over a number of years should be selected to go back to do a degree course in management training. The old-fashioned way was far superior and produced highly skilled workers worthy of salaries which were little below that of their foremen, superintendents and managers.
This is because of the gradual slide into decadence by the education "industry" who are now driven by mainly financial motives, emphasizing quantity rather quality of education.
lokuohsiung, you are not suggesting the govt should act in the interests of society, you are suggesting it should act in the interests of business.
Government is in the right direction in spending money to train up the locals for skilled labor work. It has many advantages over importing labors. Hong Kong must move pragmatically in order to resolve problems holistically. Subsidizing training to ultimately raising low pay and overcoming labor shortage is a good example. Not to mention all the adverse effects from cultural to housing if imported labor is the alternative. March on, take a bold step CY Leung.
Has the HK govt bothered to find out what is going on in Korea, Singapore, China and Taiwan in nurturing and creating jobs for young people? Check out the article ?Made in China? in the latest issue of Economist. Go to YouTube Arirang TV to find out how Korea is pulling all forces to make creative economy a reality. Singapore, China and Taiwan are embracing new technology such as 3D printing to develop new businesses. All these places are proactively nurturing start ups and engaging young people to cultivate new ideas for business. Does the HK government still live in the 20th century? We are now 2014, not 1970!!!!!!



SCMP.com Account