Part of the daily quota of 150 mainland migrants, now mainly used to admit spouses and children of residents, will be allocated to skilled mainland professionals, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said yesterday. At a briefing on his governance for the next five years, Mr Tung stressed his concern that the existing immigration policy had imposed a heavy burden on social welfare services and led to a serious mismatch of human resources. Without revealing details, he said that as waiting lists for mainland migrants arriving on the basis of family reunions had shortened in recent years, some of the 150 daily intake could be used to admit professionals. He said he hoped to announce a new population policy before the end of the year. Mr Tung would not say if the SAR would be empowered to screen prospective skilled migrants under the new policy, but said this would be one of the concerns he would pass on to the central government. It has been a long-standing practice for the mainland authorities to issue one-way permits to Hong Kong-bound migrants according to criteria agreed with Hong Kong, but the SAR has been barred from vetting the migrants. In the 1980s, Hong Kong admitted 75 mainland migrants a day. The quota was raised to 105 in 1993 and then to 150 in 1995, in view of the large number of spouses and children of local residents eligible to come. Sixty of the 150 quota is taken up by mainland children born to Hong Kong permanent residents and 30 by mainlanders who have been separated from their spouses for more than 10 years. The mainland authorities decide how to allocate the remaining 60, which could include mainlanders applying to take care of dependent elderly parents. Government sources said that under the one-way permit scheme, between 1991 and last year 200,826 mainlanders were admitted to Hong Kong to join their husbands, 13,175 to join their wives and 266,381 their parents. Another 25,236 were allowed in for other reasons. At a separate briefing yesterday, the new Director of Immigration, Lai Tung-kwok, said the quota was raised to 150 because many mainland spouses of Hong Kong people had to wait for more than 10 years before being allowed in. They also expected strong demand from mainland children granted the right of abode. Today, the waiting time for mainland spouses in Guangdong had shortened to eight years and for those in other provinces to five years, he said. Mr Lai said that while attracting talented people to Hong Kong was important to the economy, family reunions were also important. 'We need to take care of all the different needs,' he said. A Security Bureau spokeswoman yesterday said the average waiting time for eligible mainlanders under 18 trying to come to Hong Kong was one year. Tam Chun-yin, of the social affairs committee of the Confederation of Trade Unions, warned that a policy of admitting more talented mainlanders would affect young Hong Kong graduates already struggling to find work. 'The government should reform the education system if it thinks we have a lack of skilled labour,' he said. Mr Tam said the change would also be unfair to the unskilled, who had been waiting for years to come to Hong Kong. His view was echoed by Ho Hei-wah, chairman of the Society for Community Organisation. 'It's not a good time to change the policy because there are hundreds of thousands of people waiting to come over the border. If they have to wait longer, the children will stay separated from their parents and that would create many social problems and family tragedies,' Mr Ho said.