Hot Topics: Amid Hong Kong’s emigration wave, can John Lee’s plan attract overseas talent and convince them to stay?

Published: 
  • During the chief executive’s first policy address, he unveiled a 2-year visa for top university graduates, among measures addressing city’s recent emigration wave
  • But for young professionals who are already here, Covid-19 restrictions and high cost of living make them hesitant to stay for the long term
Doris Wai |
Published: 
Comment

Latest Articles

Face Off: Should schools in Hong Kong install gender-neutral toilets?

Brain Game: If you could design a new phone feature, what would it be? (Round 2)

Save money – and the planet – at Hong Kong’s Repair Cafe

Top 10: What food should your school canteen or tuck shop serve?

Hong Kong’s workforce has shrunk by 140,000 over the past two years. Photo: Felix Wong

Hot Topics takes an issue being discussed in the news and allows you to analyse different viewpoints on the subject. Our questions encourage you to examine the topic in-depth. Scroll to the bottom of the page for sample answers.

Context: Hong Kong’s John Lee unveils 2-year visa for top university graduates among strategies to woo overseas talent

  • The new scheme will allow high earners and graduates of global top universities to come to Hong Kong without having to secure a job offer beforehand

  • The measures were meant to address the city’s emigration wave in recent years

Hong Kong leader John Lee Ka-chiu presented his first policy address on October 19 and showed his plan for the next five years.

One highlight included a two-year visa for people earning at least HK$2.5 million per year, as well as those who graduated from the world’s top 100 universities and have at least three years of work experience.

People who have graduated from these universities in the past five years will also be eligible, even if they have yet to fulfil the work experience requirement. The annual quota for these individuals is capped at 10,000. This would be more flexible than the current Quality Migrant Admission Scheme.

Listing out several other measures, Lee said his administration would allow employers to hire overseas talent without having to prove difficulties in hiring locally, extend employment visas to three years, and refund extra stamp duty to foreigners-turned-permanent residents who are still holding property.

Chief Executive John Lee delivered his maiden policy address earlier this month. Photo: Sam Tsang

Lee said the city would “proactively trawl for global talent” to bring back international or mainland Chinese expertise. The measures are meant to address the city’s loss of highly trained people in recent years. The city leader admitted the local workforce had shrunk by 140,000 over the past two years. He highlighted the need for his administration to do everything it could to fix the situation.

The city has also seen a huge drop in the number of work visas being issued since 2020. According to government statistics, 13,821 visas were issued last year under the general employment policy, compared with 14,617 in 2020. In 2019, a total of 41,793 were approved.

Lee also announced the start of a unit, called the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises. This unit would work to bring high-performing firms from overseas to Hong Kong, along with their workers and families.

“Hong Kong is one of the most competitive economies in the world. It also serves as an important gateway connecting the mainland with global markets. We must be more proactive and aggressive in ‘competing for enterprises’ and ‘competing for talent’,” he said.

Staff writers

Question prompts:

  • Why does John Lee want to “proactively trawl for global talent”? Support your answer with evidence from Context.

  • Which of the measures mentioned in Context is likely to be most successful in enticing international or mainland Chinese talent to work and stay in Hong Kong? Explain.

Hong Kong leader announces new visa scheme to ‘lure global talent’ amid brain drain

Cartoon

Question prompts:

  • Based on Context, which group of people are the fish in the cartoon meant to represent?

  • What might the government be missing out on by not “trawling” for these fish? Explain using your own knowledge.

Hot Topics: Emigration’s drain on Hong Kong’s schools

News: Hong Kong rolls out measures to attract talent, but can it keep those who are already here?

  • Hong Kong’s Covid-19 restrictions and high cost of living make young professionals hesitant to stay

  • Experts say talent might choose to go to countries that have completely opened up to the world

Hong Kong’s leader has rolled out a slew of measures to woo global talent to the city. But for those already here, the city’s Covid-19 restrictions and high cost of living may prevent them from staying for the long term.

Hwang Eun-hee, an undergraduate student from South Korea at the University of Hong Kong, will benefit from a new scheme that allows non-local graduates to stay in the city for two years instead of one.

Though she plans to stay in Hong Kong to continue her studies after graduating this year, she wants to leave after gaining permanent residency. The 22-year-old psychology and biotechnology student said she felt frustrated with the city’s coronavirus restrictions and high cost of living.

Can Hong Kong convince young talent to stay in the city? Photo: Shutterstock

A 36-year-old Canadian expatriate, who asked not to be named, planned to stay in the city for three more years to gain permanent residency as he believed there were more career opportunities than in his hometown of Montreal.

But the digital transformation specialist does not plan on buying property in Hong Kong despite the extra stamp duty refund offer.

“Not all expats working here would invest that much money into buying a property. The price is just too high,” he said. “Those [who buy property] are very committed people who have a plan to stay here for long or have their family on board.”

Senior Beijing official calls suggestion of Hong Kong emigration wave ‘inappropriate’

Armstrong Lee Hon-cheung, managing director of Worldwide Consulting Group, said the considerations for young talent moving to Hong Kong were upward development opportunities, financial rewards, living conditions and opportunities to go to mainland China.

Lee Quane, Asia regional director at human resources consultancy ECA International, noted that many of the cities competing with Hong Kong had relaxed their Covid-19 policies.

“A finance graduate or IT graduate will more likely favour a role in Singapore, which has relaxed restrictions in comparison to Hong Kong where mask mandates remain in force with no road map regarding a return to normality,” he said.

Staff writers

Question prompts:

  • Using News and your own knowledge, identify TWO reasons young international talent could be attracted to Hong Kong and TWO reasons they could favour Singapore.

  • Based on responses from Hwang and the 36-year-old Canadian expatriate, what else does the Hong Kong government need to do to retain existing talent in the city?

Face Off: Is Hong Kong facing a brain drain?

Issue: Hong Kong lawmakers raise concerns about city leader’s overseas talent scheme

  • Some legislators suggest authorities should not rely on foreign rankings to decide the universities covered by John Lee’s new scheme to woo overseas talent

  • One consulting services expert says emphasis should be placed on those with managerial skills

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu unveiled a new 18-month visa during his policy address last month to entice top university graduates to job-hunt in Hong Kong.

Lawmakers have suggested that instead of relying only on foreign rankings for a list of preferred institutions, authorities could also offer preferential treatment to research institutions in mainland China, as well as those in Southeast Asian countries with a cordial relationship with China.

Legislator Nixie Lam Lam, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), argued the scheme should be more specific about the type of graduates needed, instead of focusing on rankings.

“Many young people in the Asean [Southeast Asian] countries are of Chinese ethnicity. They know about Hong Kong, feel culturally attached to it, and can speak English and Chinese too,” she said. “I think the government should consider them, and give them financial assistance as the living cost here can be quite high.”

Lawmaker Nixie Lam Lam says the Hong Kong government should not just consider rankings for its new visa for graduates from top universities. Photo: Edmond So

Armstrong Lee Hon-cheung, managing director of Worldwide Consulting Group, said he believed that graduates from the mainland or Southeast Asia could have an edge over their counterparts in the US or Europe. “If they lived in the mainland or in the region, they would be familiar with the Hong Kong market,” he said.

Associate Professor Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences agreed that the new scheme would be attractive to young graduates in Asean countries.

“As a highly developed economy with close links to China, Hong Kong will always be a premier foreign destination for young talent from Singapore and other Asean countries,” he said.

To resolve Hong Kong’s manpower shortage, Armstrong Lee said it was more urgent for the government to attract those with managerial skills, and offer them incentives.

“We need more managers whose rental cost would be covered by their employers; I’d be disappointed if this scheme is only for fresh graduates from famous colleges.”

Staff writer

Question prompts:

  • To what extent do you agree that the scheme should prioritise research institutions in mainland China, as well as those in Southeast Asian countries that have cordial relationships with China? Explain.

  • What might be Armstrong Lee’s concern when he said it was “more urgent for the government to attract those with managerial skills”? Explain using Glossary and your own knowledge.

Face off: Has Singapore become more competitive than Hong Kong?

Sample answers

Context:

  • Why does John Lee want to “proactively trawl for global talent”? Support your answer with evidence from Context. Hong Kong is experiencing a brain drain, which means that many talented people are leaving the city. The local workforce shrank by 140,000 over the past two years. To continue developing the city, John Lee must actively make it a more attractive place.

  • Which of the measures mentioned in Context is likely to be most successful in enticing international or mainland Chinese talent to work and stay in Hong Kong? Explain. Extending employment visas to three years is likely to be most successful at enticing overseas talent to work and stay in Hong Kong. The longer people stay here, the more likely they are to have become accustomed to life here. It also helps them to feel more stable as they won’t need to worry about their visa for three years. (accept other reasonable answers)

Cartoon:

  • Based on Context, which group of people are the fish in the cartoon meant to represent? The fish in the cartoon are those who did not attend the world’s top 100 universities.

  • What might the government be missing out on by not “trawling” for these fish? Explain using your own knowledge. The government might be missing out on talented people did not to attend the top universities. There are many reasons talented people might not have attended a high-ranking institution – they might have chosen to save money by going to another school, or they might have started businesses without having finished university. (accept other reasonable answers)

News:

  • Using News and your own knowledge, identify TWO reasons young international talent could be attracted to Hong Kong and TWO reasons they could favour Singapore. Young talent might be attracted to Hong Kong’s financial rewards and opportunities to go to mainland China. In regards to Singapore, they would favour its relaxed Covid-19 restrictions and larger homes compared to Hong Kong’s notoriously cramped flats.

  • Based on responses from Hwang and the 36-year-old Canadian expatriate, what else does the Hong Kong government need to do to retain existing talent in the city? Further relax or even remove all Covid-19 restrictions, lower cost of living in Hong Kong, significantly reduce cost of purchasing a property in Hong Kong

Issue:

  • To what extent do you agree that the scheme should prioritise research institutions in mainland China, as well as those in Southeast Asian countries that have cordial relationships with China? Explain. I agree to a certain extent with the lawmakers that preferential treatment could be given to certain research institutions in mainland China that specialise in areas that Hong Kong local universities are not as strong in. However, the criteria for those who are eligible for the schemes should be based on their credentials and what they can bring to the city, instead of whether they are from countries that have a cordial relationship with China. It will be more beneficial to Hong Kong if it has a good mix of talent from many different countries.

  • What might be Armstrong Lee’s concern when he said it was “more urgent for the government to attract those with managerial skills”? Explain using Glossary and your own knowledge. He might be worried that while overseas graduates have knowledge, they may lack experience to execute plans and make decisions. Hong Kong government figures showed a drop of 50,000 people working in managerial positions from the second quarter of 2019 to the same period this year. John Lee’s scheme would not be able to achieve its goals as effectively if it does not recruit experienced individuals with the managerial skills to lead companies.

Get the word out

emigration wave

113,200 residents left Hong Kong between mid-2021 and mid-2022, contributing to a record 1.6 per cent drop in the city’s population

managerial skills

the ability to effectively lead a team of employees. Hong Kong government figures showed a drop of 50,000 people working in managerial positions from the second quarter of 2019 to the same period this year.

permanent residency

refers to a foreigner who has been granted official permission to stay in a place on a permanent basis, often prior to being granted citizenship. In Hong Kong, foreigners are required to stay in the city lawfully for seven years before they can be given permanent residence status.

Quality Migrant Admission Scheme

allows eligible applicants to stay in Hong Kong for two years without being employed. It seeks to attract highly skilled or talented individuals to settle in Hong Kong to enhance the city’s economic competitiveness. Candidates must meet certain requirements, such as passing a points-based assessment on their qualifications, experience and achievements. As of the past year, approvals are limited to 4,000.

upward development opportunities

refers to chances to move into more advanced roles in one’s company or profession

Sign up for the YP Teachers Newsletter
Get updates for teachers sent directly to your inbox
By registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy
Comment