The Government is proposing to introduce the Admission of Mainland Professionals Scheme on a sector specific basis, initially targeting at the information technology (IT) and financial services sectors, so as to strengthen the competitive edge of Hong Kong, the Secretary for Security, Mrs Regina Ip, said today (March 9).
Speaking at a press conference held this morning on initiatives under the purview of the Security Bureau as outlined in the Budget Speech, Mrs Ip gave a detailed account of the Professionals Scheme, which has taken into consideration all relevant factors, which include facilitating economic development and safeguarding job opportunities for the local work force.
She noted that the Chief Executive had announced in the 2000 Policy Address that the Government would conduct a review of the existing immigration policy in a proactive but prudent manner so as to admit more professionals to work in Hong Kong. In conducting the review, the Government adhered to the established policy objective of facilitating economic development while safeguarding job opportunities for the local work force.
"The demand and supply situation in the manpower market is one of the key considerations in the review. According to the manpower forecast released by the Education and Manpower Bureau last year, with the development of information technology, globalization of trade and China's accession to the World Trade Organisation, Hong Kong is undergoing economic restructuring, evolving towards a knowledge based economy focusing on high valued-added activities. Demand for highly educated professionals will grow in the coming five years.
"Apart from the manpower forecast, we are also aware of the business sector's concern that shortage of professionals would hamper our economic development.
"The Government will continue to provide tailor-made training and learning opportunities to improve the quality of the local work force. Some professional skills take a fairly long time to develop. To strengthen the competitive edge of Hong Kong, it is important to admit from the Mainland professionals not readily available in Hong Kong before sufficient local graduates are trained up by the local universities and enterprises," she explained.
"Many countries and regions are actively bringing in professionals. Hong Kong must adjust our immigration policy so as not to loose out in global competition," she stressed.
Mrs Ip said this policy review mainly dealt with relaxation on admission of Mainland professionals who, unlike other overseas professionals, could not enter for employment unless they met the criteria of the Admission of Talents Scheme. The talents admitted are normally engaged in IT, research and innovation. As at the end of February, a total of 117 talents were admitted. Apart from enhancing the development of the employing firms, the admission of each talent can each generate about six additional jobs.
She pointed out that the Government was aware that in addition to talents, the market also required suitable professionals to meet daily operational needs. While the Government would continue to implement the Talents Scheme, it was necessary to open up a new channel to admit Mainland professionals.
She stressed that the Professionals Scheme would follow the basic principles common to all admission policies, i.e. Mainland professionals to be admitted must possess skills and knowledge not readily available locally, and were offered a remuneration package which was broadly comparable to the prevailing market rate.
She said the Government believed that a sector specific scheme struck a fine balance between enhancing Hong Kong's economic development whilst safeguarding job opportunities for the local work force.
"Since there will be sustained growth in the manpower needs of the IT and financial services sectors, the Scheme will not affect job opportunities for local professionals. We anticipate that the admission of professionals will generate new employment opportunities at sub-professional and technical levels.
"We will consult the Legislative Council on the implementation of the Professionals Scheme so that it will be launched as soon as possible," Mrs Ip said.
No quota will be imposed under the Scheme as long as applicants possess professional skills not readily available in Hong Kong. The Government will review the Scheme on a regular basis to examine whether additional specified sectors should be included.
Apart from meeting the sectoral requirement, an applicant will be eligible for entry only if he satisfies the following requirements -
- The applicant should have a good education background, normally a first degree in the relevant field. However, in special circumstances, proven professional abilities or relevant experience and achievements may also be accepted.
- The applicant should be employed by a local company in a job relevant to his academic qualifications or working experience.
"This is in fact not the first time we admit Mainland professionals. We launched a "Pilot Scheme on the Admission of Mainland Professionals" in 1994. The Scheme was discontinued in 1997 due to its complicated procedures and the excessive restrictions imposed. Having regard to past experience, we will ensure that the application procedures for the Professionals Scheme are streamlined and user friendly," Mrs Ip said.
Entry of successful applicants will be catered for outside the One-way Permit Scheme. They will be allowed to change jobs one year after admission and will be allowed to remain in Hong Kong if they are employed in a job relevant to their qualifications and expertise. They will be eligible for right of abode after seven years of residence.
Successful applicants are not allowed initially to bring their families to Hong Kong. Mrs Ip said she believed that it would not create serious problem to the professionals admitted as it was expected that they would be quite young and were still unmarried. As regards those who have already got married, they would need some time to adapt to the new environment before making a decision on whether they should bring their families to Hong Kong. Whether and how they may do so in future will be considered in the context of an overall review of our policy on the entry of dependants of persons admitted for employment and residence in Hong Kong.
"In the review, we will take into account the contributions of the admitted professionals, their personal aspirations and the merits of providing incentives for them to stay.
"We expect to complete the review before the end of this year. We will announce the arrangement as soon as possible upon the completion of the review," she added.
End/Friday, March 9, 2001
( Floor / English / Chinese)