While Hong Kong has thrown open its doors to the world once again, the city is still reckoning with the talent crunch that crept in when the pandemic started three years ago. The impact has been hard to reverse: more than 200,000 people permanently left our shores between mid-2020 and summer last year due to prolonged Covid-19 quarantine restrictions.
As the economy begins to show signs of a rebound this year and flagging industries regain steam, Hong Kong has to resolve the acute labour shortage across various sectors and also work to bridge the gaps for highly skilled persons. These are the two key priority areas that we need to resolve if we are to boost growth and maintain our competitiveness in the long run.
The Chamber has been working hard to lobby the Government on tackling these issues. In our submission for Financial Secretary Paul Chan’s Budget 2023-24, we highlighted the need to focus not only on attracting top talent from overseas, but also to stem the loss of local talent, especially among middle managers and frontline workers.
In a recently submitted policy statement on the Government’s Talent List, which included our members’ suggestions and input on the professionals Hong Kong needs the most, we underlined the importance of acquiring specialists in sectors that are crucial to economic revival. These include financial services, aviation, and information technology, among others.
Healthcare is also an important sector in which the scarcity of manpower needs to be actively addressed. There are some positive steps underway, such as the 83 medical professionals arriving on an exchange programme from Guangdong in April. At the same time, over 20 doctors and medical students from the United Kingdom will join our public health sector after a successful recruitment drive.
Meanwhile, the Government has had some success in wooing talent to combat the brain drain as well as our declining population, which dropped for a third straight year. The Top Talent Pass Scheme, which was launched in December, offers applicants from the world’s top 100 universities a two-year visa to work in Hong Kong. It is heartening to see that over 14,000 applications were received in the past few months, with 95% of the approvals given to professionals from the Mainland.
According to a recent study, Hong Kong companies are currently among the fastest hiring firms in the world. The trend is expected to stay, indicating that the manpower shortage will persist in the long term. As Hong Kong works to return to pre-pandemic levels of growth, I believe one of our biggest challenges is to keep up the momentum in attracting and retaining talent, while staying ahead in the race as the rest of the world also chases economic recovery.