LCQ1: Manpower supply and demand in construction industry

     Following is a question by the Hon Li Fung-ying and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 23):


     With the commencement of the 10 major infrastructure projects (MIPs) one after another, the manpower demand in the construction industry will rise continuously.  Some contractors are eager to put forward requests for importation of foreign labour, and some members of the labour sector are gravely concerned that the Government will ultimately give green light to the importation of foreign labour.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) apart from the studies commissioned by the Development Bureau (DEVB) and the Construction Industry Council (CIC) in 2007 and 2008 respectively on manpower supply and demand in the construction industry in the next few years, whether the authorities have specifically assessed the trades and skills required by the 10 MIPs in order to organise as early as possible the relevant training courses for the construction industry; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether the authorities have any mechanism in place to coordinate the progress of the works of the 10 MIPs so as to avoid contractors of various works projects commencing similar works at the same time and competing for the employment of labourers of the trades concerned, thus creating a man-made manpower shortage; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether the authorities have a set of objective criteria for assessing the manpower supply and demand in respect of the various trades required by the 10 MIPs; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     With the commencement of the 10 MIPs and other construction works, the demand for construction manpower will indeed continue to increase.  In the past few years, the DEVB, in collaboration with the CIC and other stakeholders including contractors, trade associations, labour unions, has adopted a multi-pronged approach in meeting the manpower needs with a view to ensuring adequate and stable supply of local manpower resources and to nurturing a high quality construction workforce.  Importation of labour will not be considered lightly.

     My reply to the three parts of Hon Li's question is as follows:

(a) To prepare for the rolling out of various construction projects including the 10 MIPs, the DEVB and the CIC have, in the past few years, conducted a number of manpower studies.  Apart from the studies in 2007 and 2008 mentioned in the question, the DEVB conducted, with industry major stakeholders, a manpower workshop in June last year to comprehensively review the results of the 2007 and 2008 studies and to further assess the construction manpower situation.  At the end of last year, the CIC also updated the study on construction workers and supervisors / technicians taking into account the latest economic and manpower situation.   In the middle of this year, the CIC will also engage consultants to assess the supply and demand situation of local professionals, workers and supervisors / technicians in the coming 10 years.  As the 10 MIPs only constitute part of the public works projects and they are not launched concurrently, these manpower studies would not only assess the manpower demands for the 10 MIPs but also for the overall construction industry including both the public and private sectors.

     In brief, the results of the above completed or commenced studies all indicate that there is an adequate overall supply of workers in the coming five years but individual trades would face manpower shortage or ageing problem.  As for the following five-year period (between 2015 and 2020), it is projected that there would be manpower shortage.

     In this connection, the CIC has been, over the past few years, launching new training courses from time to time to cater for the latest manpower demand for different trades and new skills in the industry e.g. for Tower Crane Worker's Assistant and Ground Investigation Operator's Assistant etc.  Moreover, considering that the CIC may not be able to provide training for some trades that involve specialised construction methods, require special site conditions or large scale machines, the CIC has launched since 2009 the "Contractor Cooperative Training Scheme" whereby participating contractors will employ trainees on a "first-hire-then-train" basis and arrange them to receive relevant skill training on site.  Such an arrangement not only offers more training opportunities but also provides training courses with the above-mentioned special requirements.  To date, the Scheme has successfully equipped local workers with the requisite skills for specific trades, such as shotfirers and tunnel boring machine operators, to meet the manpower demand arising from various works projects including the 10 MIPs.

(b) The 10 MIPs by no means constitute all of the public works projects.  Nor are they all in construction stage at the same time.  Among them, the Kai Tak Development, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, the South Island Line, the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link and the Shatin to Central Link projects are either under construction or would shortly commence.  As regards the rest of the 10 MIPs, they are currently still at different planning stages with their construction timeframe still under review.

     The HKSAR Government appreciates the importance of implementing public works projects in an evenly and orderly manner.  Since the Administration of the current term announced the 10 MIPs in 2007, it has closely monitored the construction industry's delivery capacity to avoid bunching of projects.  To this end, we have adopted many measures, which include ensuring that the capital works expenditure is maintained at a reasonable but affordable level in the medium term from a macro public finance management perspective; and implementing major projects in stages.  For example, we have implemented the Kai Tak Development project in stages of priority.  The first stage is anticipated to be completed by 2013 with the whole project scheduled for completion by 2021.  The Administration and the CIC will from time to time keep in view the progress of the various works projects and their impact on the manpower demand of the construction industry.  Appropriate measures will be taken and necessary training will be provided in good time to ensure that there is an adequate supply of manpower resources to meet the latest demand of the works projects.

(c) In the consultancy studies on the manpower supply and demand of the construction industry commissioned by the Administration and the CIC respectively, the projected manpower demand is evaluated based on the forecast construction outputs of various types of public and private works projects that are underway or in the pipeline; and the manpower information of the relevant types of previous works projects.  The projected manpower supply is derived from the information provided by the Construction Workers Registration Authority, the Census and Statistics Department, training institutes and manpower surveys.  The projected manpower supply and demand of different trades can then be assessed.  The CIC also maintains close liaison with the construction industry and regularly updates the manpower situation in the light of periodic reviews on the latest economic condition and manpower market, with a view to adjusting its initiatives and training programmes timely to better meet the manpower demand of the construction industry.

Ends/Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Issued at HKT 13:11