The number of caucasians in Hong Kong has dropped 20 per cent over the past five years to about 36,400, sparking suggestions that the former British colony is starting to lose its appeal to western expatriates. A human resources management expert attributed this partly to the growing reluctance of Hong Kong employers to pay fat packages to expatriates, and a legislator called on the government to do an in-depth study. By-census results released yesterday showed whites accounted for 0.53 per cent of the population, or 36,384. This compares to 0.69 per cent, or 46,584, in 2001. The Indonesian population saw the biggest percentage growth among ethnic minorities. It grew from 50,494, or 0.75 per cent, in 2001, to 87,840, or 1.28 per cent, last year. 'I would not say it is an exodus,' Garek Hui Po-wing, a past president of the Hong Kong People Management Association, said of the falling white population. 'But most employers are not as generous as before. Maybe jobs in Hong Kong have become less attractive. But on the other hand, there are many Asian talents on the market. The competition has become keener.' Citing press reports, Mr Hui also said the worsening air pollution might also be driving away western expats. Legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing said Hong Kong's image as an international city could be damaged if the trend was not stopped. 'I am not saying that we have to have a lot of white people in Hong Kong to make it an international city. But if we have fewer of them here, that might be an issue we have to look into.' Eman Villanueva, secretary-general of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said a reason for the rise in the number of Indonesians could be that many were willing to accept underpaid jobs. He said many families had opted not to keep their Filipino maids during the recession several years ago. The number of Filipinos dropped from 142,556 in 2001 to 112,453 last year. The by-census conducted last year shows about 33 per cent of the working population were managers, administrators and professionals, up from 29 per cent in 1996. The proportion of craftspeople and related workers dropped from 12 per cent in 1996 to 8 per cent last year.