Brain drain fears as 3 in 10 want to quit Hong Kong

Declining faith in city, heavy workloads and high property prices to blame for exodus, poll finds

Anita Lam
Hong Kong's financial and professional services sectors are the most competitive, reveals a survey. Photo: AFP.

Hong Kong could suffer a brain drain amid greater regional competition for talent, with a survey finding nearly one-third of 225 professionals polled said they wanted to leave the city next year.

The survey by accounting body CPA Australia also found that about half of these respondents' employers - which include multinationals and listed companies - might relocate their businesses to places such as mainland China and Singapore.

However, more than 20 per cent of those with operations in mainland China said they were considering coming back to Hong Kong.

Three in 10 respondents, mostly from the financial, retail and manufacturing sectors, said they wanted to move to a new country in the new year. This was not only because they have less confidence in Hong Kong's future but also the worsening living environment, heavy workloads and high property prices.

With mainland China relaxing entry barriers for foreign enterprises through the setting up of free-trade zones and economic regions, 21 per cent said they might move their businesses across the border, while a further 20 per cent said they planned to move to Singapore. However, 22 per cent, who have businesses on the mainland, said they wanted to move back to Hong Kong.

Peter Lee, the organisation's president for Greater China, said the increasing use of yuan as a currency for trade settlement, and Hong Kong's role as a pivotal offshore yuan centre, undoubtedly attracted many mainland-based enterprises to use Hong Kong as a bridge for expanding their businesses overseas.

Although the finding indicated a net loss of businesses in Hong Kong, most of the respondents voted the city as the most competitive economy in both the financial and professional services sectors. But the city lagged behind mainland China in trading, logistics and tourism.

Of the respondents, 34.2 per cent rated equities as the best investment asset next year, followed by cash and property. Forty-one per cent said the Hang Seng Index, which closed at 23,811 points yesterday, would hit 26,000 by December next year.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Brain drain fears as 3 in 10 want to quit HK