LCQ12: Loss of workforce

     Following is a question by the Hon Yung Hoi-yan and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):


     The 2022 Policy Address has pointed out that the local workforce has shrunk by about 140 000 over the past two years. Moreover, it is learnt that the number of overseas professionals coming to work in Hong Kong has decreased, resulting in a shortage of talents in quite a number of industries. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has compiled statistics on the following information of the aforesaid some 140 000 people that have left the workforce: their age, occupation, annual income and reasons for leaving Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) given that as revealed by the statistics of the Law Society of Hong Kong (Law Society), the number of registered foreign lawyers in Hong Kong has decreased from about 1 650 at the end of 2019 to 1‍ 450 in April 2022, representing a drop of about 12.5 per cent, whether the Government has communicated with the Law Society to gain an understanding of the reasons for the decrease in the number of registered foreign lawyers and the impact of such situation on the operation of the industry; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) given that the 2022 Policy Address has proposed various measures to "compete for talents", how the Government ensures that the talents recruited through such measures can precisely fill the corresponding job vacancies that have arisen from the workforce loss; of the long-‍term measures in place to reduce the loss of local talents, and whether it has estimated when the situation of workforce loss will subside and come to an end?



     In consultation with the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) and the Department of Justice (DoJ), a consolidated reply to the Member's question is provided as follows:

(1) According to the General Household Survey conducted by the C&SD, the local labour force (excluding foreign domestic helpers) dropped by about 140 000 between the second quarter of 2020 and the second quarter of 2022. The changes in the local labour force by age and occupation over the two-year period are set out below:

Age group
  Labour force in the second quarter of 2020 (Note 1)
No. ('000)
Labour force in the second quarter of 2022
No. ('000)
No. ('000)
Aged 15-24 207.5 169.3 -38.2
Aged 25-39 1 213.5 1 135.3 -78.3
Aged 40-59 1 702.6 1 644.6 -58.0
Aged 60 and over 446.7 481.8 +35.1
Total 3 570.3 3 431.0 -139.3
Note 1: Labour force refers to the land-based non-institutional population aged 15 and over who satisfy the criteria for being classified as employed population or unemployed population. Inmates of institutions and persons living on board vessels are excluded. Foreign domestic helpers are excluded from the above figures.

Occupation group (Note 2)
  Labour force in the second quarter of 2020
No. ('000)
Labour force in the second quarter of 2022
No. ('000)
No. ('000)
Managers 417.0 410.0 -7.0
Professionals 437.1 427.2 -9.9
Associate professionals 753.4 682.0 -71.5
Clerical support workers 470.1 459.6 -10.5
Service and sales workers 704.3 675.6 -28.7
Craft and related workers 256.2 255.8 -0.4
Plant and machine operators and assemblers 170.9 157.5 -13.4
Elementary occupations 338.6 344.6 +6.0
Other occupations 7.6 6.8 -0.8
Not available (Note 3) 15.1 12.0 -3.1
Total 3 570.3 3 431.0 -139.3
Note 2: Refers to the occupation of employed persons or the previous occupation of unemployed persons.
Note 3: Information on occupation is not available for first-time job-seekers and re-entrants into the labour force who were unemployed.

     The above statistics reflect the aggregated changes in the local labour force over the two-year period. The Government does not conduct tracking survey on people leaving Hong Kong, and is unable to ascertain their prior income and reasons for leaving.

(2) The DoJ has been maintaining communication with the legal sector, and is in full engagement with the Law Society of Hong Kong on the development of the sector. According to figures provided by the Law Society of Hong Kong, since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the number of registered foreign lawyers increased steadily, from 455 in 1997 to 1 465 in 2021. The DoJ will continue to support the training and capacity building of the legal sector and is committed to promoting the professional development of the industry, with a view to creating more opportunities for the sector and attracting more legal talents to practise in Hong Kong.

(3) The main thrust of the Government's manpower policy is on nurturing local talents, complementing by attracting outside talents. At present, there is a demand for talents in different industries. We wish to attract talents of different background with swift and bold measures to meet the imminent market demand for manpower and maintain Hong Kong's competitiveness.

     The 2022 Policy Address announced a package of initiatives to trawl for talents, aiming to attract more talents of high quality, with good academic qualifications and with professional experience to come to Hong Kong. Major measures included launching the Top Talent Pass Scheme to attract high-income talents and graduates from the world's top 100 universities to Hong Kong for development; enhancing the existing talent admission schemes, such as streamlining the General Employment Policy and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals such that for vacancies falling under professions with shortage of local supply as listed in the Talent List or for vacancies with an annual salary of HK$2 million or above, employers are not required to prove their difficulties in local recruitment in making applications for talent admission directly; and suspending the annual quota under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme for a period of two years.

     The aim of the aforesaid measures is to trawl for talents from outside to come to Hong Kong and join the relevant professional or business sectors, to enrich the local talent pool and to increase the supply of quality manpower for meeting the shortfall caused by the decline in labour force. The Government's target is to admit at least 35 000 talents annually with an intended duration of stay of at least 12 months through the talent admission schemes from 2023 to 2025. If the target is achieved, more than 100 000 talents will come to Hong Kong in the next three years, which can to a great extent alleviate the local manpower shortage.

     Quality talents are highly mobile. They trail opportunities and will choose to stay in places with development potential. To retain local and outside talents, Hong Kong must maintain our competitiveness. It is recommended in the Policy Address that apart from reinforcing the advantages in key industries like financial services, we also need to develop emerging industries such as innovation and technology, arts, cultural and creative industries to diversify our economy so as to provide more entrepreneurial opportunities and jobs with promising prospects. Local people will see hope and opportunities and will be willing to live and work in Hong Kong. Besides, we will enhance publicity on telling the good stories of Hong Kong to enable Hong Kong people overseas to stay connected with us and know about the latest developments in Hong Kong. This would encourage them to return to Hong Kong.

     One of the major reasons for the decline in local labour force over the past two years is the significant reduction in people inflow caused by the global epidemic. With the local epidemic coming under control followed by relaxation of inbound quarantine measures, people inflow will rebound. The tight situation of labour force may be relieved in future.

Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Issued at HKT 11:40