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LCQ18: Measures to improve labour shortage
     Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, in the Legislative Council today (March 22):


     Operators of quite a number of industries have relayed that there is a shortage of both low-skilled workers and professionals in Hong Kong, and they are in general facing recruitment difficulties. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of persons who applied and were approved to work in Hong Kong under the General Employment Policy and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals in the past three years and, among them, the number of those who belonged to the 13 professions with a shortage of local talents as listed in the Talent List;

(2) as it is learnt that the Government has consulted the trades on the updating of the Talent List and conducted surveys and studies on the latest situation of talent shortage of the relevant professions, of the progress and preliminary results of the relevant work, as well as the anticipated differences in the professions covered by the updated Talent List and the existing Talent List; and

(3) as it is learnt that some members of the public have given up taking up full-time jobs in order to pass the income and asset tests for applying for public rental housing (PRH) and other social welfare protection, and this is one of the reasons why enterprises have recruitment difficulties, whether the Government will review afresh the income and asset limits for applying for PRH and other social welfare protection, and handle flexibly in the light of different circumstances; if so, of the details and implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that?



     In consultation with the Immigration Department and the Housing Bureau, my reply is as follows:

(1) The number of applications received and approved under the General Employment Policy (GEP) and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP) in the past three years are as follows:
Scheme 2020 2021 2022
GEP Number of applications received 17 688 15 515 15 082
Number of applications approved 14 617 13 821 13 495
ASMTP Number of applications received 9 026 10 485 13 155
Number of applications approved 6 995 9 065 11 768

     The Government launched a series of measures trawling for talents on December 28, 2022, including streamlining the GEP and the ASMTP, such that for vacancies falling under the 13 professions with shortage of local supply as listed in the Talent List, employers are not required to prove difficulties in local recruitment in making applications for talent admission. As at end-February 2023, the number of applications received under the two schemes with the abovementioned exemption from proving difficulties in local recruitment were 10 and 55 respectively, of which 10 and 34 applications were approved respectively.

(2) The Government has drawn up the Talent List with a view to attracting high-quality talent for different industries and professional fields in a more effective and focused manner to support Hong Kong's development into a high value-added and diversified economy. To reflect the latest talent shortage situation in different professions, the Government has commenced a new round of review of the Talent List after the promulgation of the 2022 Policy Address. Bureaux have been invited to review and consult industry bodies and stakeholders of their responsible sectors on the suggestions on the coverage of the Talent List. The Government is now consolidating the suggestions on the updates, with a view to completing the review by end-March 2023.

(3) It is the objective of the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) to provide public rental housing (PRH) to low-income families who cannot afford to rent private accommodation. Given the limited PRH resources, the HA follows a set of objective criteria in allocating PRH, in order to focus the limited and precious public resources on families with the most pressing needs. PRH applicants shall meet specific eligibility, including income and asset limits. The HA will review and assess the income and asset limits annually to keep them in line with the prevailing socio-economic circumstances.

     There will always be households whose income or asset marginally exceeding the limits regardless of the level of income and asset limits. The HA will continue to review the mechanism in a timely manner to ensure that the latest socio-economic circumstances can be reflected.

     In the welfare area, the Government has been encouraging the public to be self-reliant and supporting those who are capable of working to stay employed. It also implements various schemes to provide suitable assistance to those in need. The Working Family Allowance (WFA) Scheme rolled out in April 2018 supports working households who are on full-time employment but with lower income and have not received assistance under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA). The allowance amounts under the WFA Scheme are formulated mainly on the basis of the working hours and income of the households concerned so as to reward hard work. Separately, the CSSA provides a safety net of last resort for those who cannot support themselves financially, and it is thus necessary to put in place more stringent financial vetting requirements. The Government has introduced improvement measures in recent years to provide additional incentives encouraging CSSA recipients to seek and stay in employment. The Social Welfare Department also introduced the enhanced Employment Support Services in April 2020 to continue engage the non-governmental organisations in providing an array of services to able-bodied CSSA recipients with a view to increasing their employability.
Ends/Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:07
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