LCQ3: Problem of labour shortage

     Following is a question by the Hon Shiu Ka-fai and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, in the Legislative Council today (July 6):


     Operators of quite a number of industries have relayed that due to the persistent shortage of labour in Hong Kong, they have been facing recruitment difficulties for a long time. Therefore, Hong Kong needs to import more non-local workers in the long run to address the needs of social and economic development. Regarding the problem of labour shortage, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that only 3 043 workers were imported to Hong Kong in 2021 under the Supplementary Labour Scheme, and it is learnt that such number was far below the relevant numbers of neighbouring regions such as Singapore, Macao and Japan, whether the Government has assessed the impacts of such a difference on the development of Hong Kong and the neighbouring regions; if not, of the reasons for that;

(2) whether it will review afresh the existing policies and measures for importation of labour, and expand the importation of labour; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) as the Government has projected that in the coming two decades, the child dependency ratio of Hong Kong will decrease gradually, while the elderly dependency ratio will rise continuously, whether the Government has put in place new initiatives and measures to cope with the problem of continuous decline in the labour force and labour productivity caused by the continuously ageing population in Hong Kong; if not, of the reasons for that?



     In tandem with the social and economic development of Hong Kong, the Government has all along been committed to nurturing local talents and enhancing the employability and competitiveness of employees. On the premise of safeguarding the employment priority for local workers, the Government allows importation of labour, so as to alleviate the shortage of manpower in individual sectors/job categories.

     As regards the question raised by the Member, my reply is as follows:

(1) and (2) The Government operates different schemes for employers to apply for importation of labour on account of their actual operational circumstances so as to supplement skills not readily available in the local labour market. Depending on the skill level and/or education requirement of the job vacancies concerned, employers may apply to the Immigration Department or the Innovation and Technology Commission for admission of professionals, or to the Labour Department for importation of labour at technician level or below under the Supplementary Labour Scheme.

     The Government from time to time takes into account relevant experience of other countries and places. Having regard to the different circumstances of demography, economy and industry structure, etc. of various places, the Government reviews and formulates the policy of labour importation that suits the needs of Hong Kong.

(3) In the face of ageing population and declining birth rate, the local workforce is expected to shrink. To ensure the sustainable development of Hong Kong's economy, we need to face up to the challenges of local manpower shortage. The Government will continue to promote training and retraining, provide appropriate employment services, optimise child care services, etc. to unleash the potential local workforce. To assist people to enhance their skills for adapting to the new economy and trades, the Government will increase the subsidy ceiling of the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) to $25,000 per person and remove the upper age limit for CEF applicants. With a view to enhancing the employability of local employees, the Employees Retraining Board also offers over 700 regular courses, covering 28 industries and various generic skills.

     The Government will continue to closely monitor the manpower supply and demand of different sectors, and to put forth relevant measures for targeted sectors facing severe labour shortage, including exploring the possibility of increasing imported labour on an appropriate and regulated basis. The stakeholders will be consulted timely.

Ends/Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:30