THE Government should drop the labour importation scheme if Hong Kong's unemployment rate reaches three per cent, local unionists say. Their suggestion came after the Government announced last week that in the first quarter, unemployment had crept up to 2.8 per cent, the highest in nine years. At yesterday's weekly City Forum, a legislator from the Confederation of Trade Unions, Lee Cheuk-yan, said he was worried the territory's unemployment rate would keep rising as employers, especially those in the service and retail industries, preferred foreign labourers over to local workers. 'The hardest hit are those older local workers who are not very well educated and have been in the manufacturing industry for years,' he said. 'Because of the transformation of the local economy, they cannot find work in the service and retail industries.' Chan Yuen-han from the pro-China Federation of Trade Unions said there should be legislation forcing employers give preference to local workers. But Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower Raymond Fan Wai-ming said a lot of employers could not find workers to fill vacancies and the 25,000 imported labourers represented less than one per cent of the local workforce.