LCQ6: Measures to cope with labour shortage

     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Johnny Ng and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, in the Legislative Council today (March 29):


     There are views that as Hong Kong is facing the problem of labour shortage, it is incumbent upon the Government to get hold of data on the actual manpower supply and demand in various trades and industries, and formulate appropriate policies to address the problem in a comprehensive manner. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the latest number of applications made under the Top Talent Pass Scheme since it was launched; whether it has analysed the information and data of the applications to facilitate further formulation of human resources policies, and how it ensures that those talents with their applications approved will pursue long-term development upon arrival in Hong Kong instead of taking up short-term residence only for the purpose of obtaining the status of "recognised professionals in Hong Kong";

(2) as it is learnt that the labour force in Hong Kong has further shrunk in recent years due to the impact of the epidemic and mass emigration, whether the authorities will prepare an updated and comprehensive survey report on the manpower supply and demand in Hong Kong, and introduce measures to relieve the urgent demand for manpower locally, including comparing Hong Kong's policies on importation of labour with those adopted in the neighbouring regions with a view to "competing for talents" extensively at the high, middle and low-skilled manpower levels, and carrying out a review and reform of the Supplementary Labour Scheme (e.g. streamlining the vetting and approval criteria and procedures for the importation of foreign labour, and setting out clearly the types of jobs and scope of duties requiring the importation of middle and low-skilled foreign labour); and

(3) whether the authorities have plans to formulate a comprehensive strategy for training of talents, and set specific targets for such training, including enhancing the role and functions of the Employees Retraining Board, and better nurturing local talents and utilising their expertise through further retraining and skills upgrading?



     Our workforce is a precious resource of Hong Kong and the foundation of its economic development. The Government has been adopting a multi-pronged approach, through providing employment support and skills training, etc., to nurture talents. Yet, in the face of the declining working population and keen external competition, the Chief Executive (CE) announced in the 2022 Policy Address (PA) an array of initiatives to respond, including to attract talents from outside Hong Kong more proactively and enhance manpower projections. The main thrust of the Government's manpower policy is on nurturing local talents, complementing by attracting outside talents; and on the premise of safeguarding the employment priority for local workers, allowing for the importation of labour, so as to alleviate the shortage of manpower in individual sectors/job categories.

     The reply to the question raised by Dr the Hon Johnny Ng is as follows:

(1) The Government launched the Top Talent Pass Scheme in end-2022 to attract high-income talents and graduates from the world's top 100 universities to Hong Kong for development. As at March 14, 2023, the Scheme received over 17 000 applications, of which over 10 000 applications have been approved. As the CE has earlier indicated, the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) will conduct an interim review of the Scheme in the middle of this year. The Government is now analysing the information and data of the applicants under the Scheme, including gender, age group, work experience, occupation categories, income and place of origin, etc., thereby considering whether adjustment to the details of the Scheme is needed.

     The Government welcomes overseas talents to come to Hong Kong for long-term development and will reach out to them to provide relevant support. The LWB is making preparations for establishing the physical office of the Hong Kong Talent Engage (HKTE) in the middle of this year. One of the HKTE's prime tasks is to provide facilitation and render support to incoming talents, to assist overseas talents to relocate to Hong Kong, seek jobs, establish business connections with potential employers, cater for children's schooling needs, etc., thereby encouraging them to settle down and stay in Hong Kong for continued development. In the long run, talents trail opportunities. As long as Hong Kong maintains our competitiveness, talents will choose to stay.

(2) The new round of Manpower Projection will commence in the middle of this year and the LWB is pressing ahead with the preparatory work. The broad trends of future manpower supply and demand in different key economic sectors will be assessed at the macro level in the Manpower Projection, including, on the general education profile of the labour force in the next five years, the manpower requirements by conventional economic sector, by occupation group and by education level as well as the overall manpower shortage of Hong Kong's entire economy in the future. The projection outcomes will render factual data for the LWB and other relevant bureaux, training institutions and other stakeholders, which will allow the Government and various stakeholders to plan various short and medium to long-term policies and programmes, including enhancing the quality of home-grown talents through education, unleashing the potential of the local labour force by encouraging training and upskilling or reskilling, and bringing in manpower and skills from different parts of the world to supplement the local workforce.

     The Government operates different schemes for employers to apply for the importation of labour on account of their actual operational circumstances so as to supplement skills not readily available in the local labour market, and sustain the competitiveness and meet the development needs of Hong Kong. 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 the admission of professionals, or to the Labour Department for the importation of labour at technician level or below under the Supplementary Labour Scheme (SLS).

     The Government is highly concerned about the manpower shortage problem facing Hong Kong. Relevant bureaux are proactively exploring and implementing suitable solutions, on the premise of safeguarding the employment of local workers, to allow increasing the number of imported labour on an appropriate and regulated basis, with a view to alleviating the shortage of manpower in individual sectors/job categories. The LWB will implement the special scheme to import care workers for residential care homes this June and applications from residential care homes will be processed with greater flexibility. On the release of the latest Manpower Forecast for Hong Kong Construction Industry by the Construction Industry Council in February this year, the Development Bureau (DEVB) immediately indicated that reference would be made to the forecast data in assessing how to enhance manpower supply of the construction industry through a multi-pronged strategy, including leveraging local manpower resources, enhancing training and bringing in non-local resources as necessary, as well as to reduce manpower needs through productivity uplifting measures. The DEVB targets to present the assessment and a holistic strategy by the middle of the year. In respect of the transport sector, the Transport and Logistics Bureau is actively reviewing the latest manpower situation in the industry and considering various measures to drive the sustainable manpower development in the industry, with a view to putting up initial proposals by the middle of the year and formulating relevant measures. Other bureaux will examine the respective needs for manpower resources of their responsible industries, to formulate corresponding strategies as necessary. We will also review the SLS and explore feasible measures for enhancing the operation and workflow of processing applications under the SLS.

(3) The Government needs to continually review, enhance and provide overall manpower training and retraining. The LWB is responsible for manpower training and retraining policies, including supporting the Employees Retraining Board's (ERB) operation in terms of policies and resources, so that the local labour force can better meet the needs of Hong Kong's economic and industry development.

     The ERB offers comprehensive and diversified training and retraining services for the local labour force, through the co-ordination, funding and monitoring of training bodies to provide market-driven and employment-oriented training courses and services. Currently the ERB offers over 100 000 training places a year, with service targets being people aged 15 or above with an educational attainment at sub-degree level or below. In 2023-24, the ERB will provide 150 000 planned training places, an increase of 10 000 places as compared to 2022-23. Besides, in response to the CE's invitation in the PA, the ERB has just revised in March 2023 the disbursement arrangement of retraining allowance and adjusted upward the daily rate of allowance to encourage the unemployed and job-seekers to enroll in training and join the work force.

Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Issued at HKT 13:02