Quality of life is the key to attracting global talent
Human capital has been Hong Kong's key asset. Pressured by an ageing population and keen global competition for talent, the government has rightly decided to swing our door open wider. Starting from Monday, children born to Hong Kong parents who emigrated overseas can apply to stay here under a special admission scheme. It remains unclear how many will apply, as there is no quota. But if the scheme provides sufficient flexibility, it can enhance our demographics and workforce.
Announced in the policy speech in January, the scheme targets the second generation of Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents who have settled overseas. Given their family ties with the city, they may want to work here and capitalise on the opportunities available in the region. Our workforce can also tap into their skills and become more vibrant.
Applicants should be aged 18 to 40, proficient in Chinese or English with a university degree or technical qualifications, and be self-reliant. While they do not have to secure a job before arriving, there won't be any conditions of stay within the first 12 months, and applicants will be expected to take up a job that pays the market rate salary for degree holders when applying for any extension of stay into a second year.
There have been concerns that the scheme is too restrictive. If enquiries to an immigration consultant company are any reference, it has not attracted any interest so far. The government should monitor whether the criteria are too stringent and adjust them in light of experience.
It takes more than an attractive scheme to get talented people to come. Globalisation and the free flow of talent means the best calibre people will choose the place that appeals to them most. It cannot be assumed that the second generation will come because of family ties alone. They were born and raised in different environments and cultures. They will only come if Hong Kong can offer quality living, attractive work benefits, good education and civil liberties.