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Vehicles travel along a road in Hong Kong on June 28. Businesses are relocating all or part of their operations to places where talent is both available and happy to work. Bloomberg

Letters | Government is dangerously in denial about Hong Kong’s skills shortage

  • Environmental factors already made it difficult to attract talent; now what little we had has been driven away by the government’s response to social unrest and the pandemic
  • Unfortunately, until it faces up to the problem, this downward spiral will continue
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I refer to the letter headlined “Indifference to losing Hong Kong’s talented youth will come back to hurt city” ( June 27). The financial secretary was cited as saying the migration wave would have minimal impact on the government’s tax revenue as there was high demand for jobs and there would also be an inflow of new talent. This comment highlights both the problem, and the head-in-the-sand mentality regarding the potential consequences.
We have had a shortage of talent for many years and the current brain drain is simply making it worse. What Hong Kong has is a skills shortage. The difficulty in attracting people to Hong Kong was previously owing to, among other things, a lack of school places and environmental factors like pollution. The social unrest and the government’s response to it, in the form of the national security law, have only added to these difficulties.
Compounding the problem of being unable to attract people to Hong Kong, those who are already here are leaving in large numbers. It is an unfortunate fact that the most qualified find it the easiest to relocate and it is young professionals and senior leaders who are voting with their feet in response to the increasingly authoritarian environment.
As if that wasn’t enough, Hong Kong’s continuing head-in-the-sand approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic is driving more and more senior businesspeople away. Ask any business forum or headhunter and you will hear that the difficulty in recruiting qualified talent has become much, much worse.

The response to this inability to recruit the necessary talent in Hong Kong (as well as concerns about personal and business freedoms) is reflected in the latest trend: businesses are relocating all or part of their operations to places where talent is both available and happy to work. This is simple economics; demand is moving due to a lack of local supply.

Having moved out of Hong Kong, these businesses will have no incentive to return and the damage will be long-term. Unfortunately, until we solve the problem of lack of talent in our government, we are condemned to remain on this downward spiral – it is plain to see and extremely sad to watch.

Paul Kennedy, Tai Tam