Fewer mainlanders with special talents or professional expertise secured jobs in Hong Kong late last year as the financial crisis took hold, with a 15 per cent drop in applications for a government admission scheme. The Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals saw a monthly average of 677 applications in the first eight months of last year, but that dipped to 576 a month between September and December. The Immigration Department, which runs the scheme, said the 6,744 approved applications last year were up 11 per cent on 2007 but conceded a downward trend was evident because of the economic turmoil. The scheme has seen a steady increase in applications since it was launched in 2003, with a total of 26,974 mainlanders recruited to work in academic research, commerce, financial services and other fields. Director of Immigration Simon Peh Yun-lu said the scheme was welcomed by local companies because the mainlanders helped to improve efficiency and productivity. 'The shrinking market demands during an economic downturn will result in fewer applications,' he said. But the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme, which requires each entrant to invest HK$6.5 million, had received 2,798 applicants last year, up by 55 per cent from the previous year. In the last four months of last year, 768 applications were received, 'virtually unchanged' from the same period in 2007, Mr Peh said. The quota-based Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, which aimed to attract highly skilled mainlanders, had also seen a surge in applications after criteria were relaxed last year.