More than half of all one-way permit arrivals from the mainland remain outside the city's workforce.
That's according to a draft government document prepared ahead of a public consultation on population and immigration issues due to be launched tomorrow.
About 760,000 mainlanders have settled in Hong Kong through the one-way permit scheme since the handover in 1997, making up more than one in 10 residents.
The document states that only 48 per cent of those new arrivals have entered the job market, compared with 58 per cent of locals over the same time period.
The Post was shown the draft document by a source close to the public consultation exercise, who asked not to be named.
A partial explanation for the phenomenon is the large number of female one-way permit holders reuniting with their local husbands as housewives.
Of those permit holders who did find jobs, 87 per cent are engaged in lower-skilled work.
"If properly trained, this specific group may replenish our labour force, in particular on the lower-skilled spectrum. Gainful employment can also facilitate their integration into society," the draft document reads.
The public consultation is designed to help the government's steering committee on population policy find ways to build a socially inclusive and cohesive society. In particular, the committee will look into ways to help groups with special needs, such as one-way permit holders, children of non-locals born in Hong Kong and ethnic minorities.
Tsang Koon-wing of the Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association said there are limited services available for the needs of new mainland arrivals.
"All they need is a platform to help them be useful to society," he said. "Their qualifications obtained on the mainland are not recognised in Hong Kong, which puts them into many lower-skilled jobs in security, construction and the elderly care sector."
The document also floats the idea of increasing education services for the 200,000 children that were born to non-locals in Hong Kong before the introduction of the "zero delivery quota" policy earlier this year.
The government expects that half of those 200,000 will return to Hong Kong to seek education before the age of 21.
As the non-Chinese population rose by 31 per cent in the 10 years to mid-2011, to 450,000, the document also suggests Hong Kong-born members of this group should be helped to communicate in Chinese so as to promote their upward social mobility and improve social engagement.