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Hong Kong Budget 2018-2019

‘Talent list’ coming to lure foreign workers to Hong Kong

Details being finalised as city races to find labour answers amid rapidly ageing population and for economic competitiveness

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 7:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 8:29am

Hong Kong will issue a “talent list” by the middle of the year to attract foreign labour and ease the city’s manpower shortage amid a rapidly ageing population, the finance chief said on Wednesday.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said in his budget speech that the Labour and Welfare Bureau was finalising details of an enhanced talent admission arrangement.

Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, of the University of Hong Kong’s department of social work and social administration, hoped the list would enumerate labour shortages in each sector and help the public understand that bringing in outsiders is paramount.

Yip said several industries had been experiencing a severe manpower shortage and that the health-care, elderly care and construction sectors would benefit from the move.

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But he expressed concern that local professional bodies and trades, such as the medical sector and labour unions, would be reluctant and hinder the recruitment of overseas talent.

Manpower and talent shortages ... have impeded Hong Kong’s economic development and competitiveness
Paul Chan

On Wednesday, Chan said the city’s 3 per cent unemployment rate indicated a tight labour market and that the workforce would shrink over the next few years as the elderly population rapidly rises.

“Manpower and talent shortages in the workforce have impeded Hong Kong’s economic development and competitiveness.

“On the premise that local workers’ priority for employment will be safeguarded, we should consider increasing imported labour in a timely manner and on an appropriate scale to address the specific needs of individual sectors.”

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The financial secretary stressed the government needed to invest heavily in nurturing talent, calling it crucial for economic development and social progress. Officials would invest in education, training and retraining to enhance the quality and competitiveness of the city’s workforce. 

But Yip said efforts would be hurt by Hong Kong’s declining quality of life and unaffordable housing compared with Singapore and Australia.  

Last year, Hong Kong saw 24,300 people emigrate, marking a five-year high for the city. Medical professionals comprised a significant percentage of this number and pointed to poor working conditions at understaffed public hospitals, the Post reported earlier.

Local public hospitals have been short of about 300 doctors and 200 nurses amid a surge of flu cases in recent weeks.

“Professional bodies should consider being more receptive to foreign workers as these people would eventually help ease their workload,” Yip said. 

Meanwhile, Chan said the Commission for the Planning of Human Resources would commence operations “soon” to foster collaboration across different bureaus and sectors. The commission was announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor during her policy address last October.

​It has been 17 years since then-financial secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen​ revived​ in 2001​ a modified form of the Admission of Mainland Professionals Scheme, first implemented in 1994, in response to a shortage of highly skilled IT and financial service workers in Hong Kong.