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LCQ4: Solving the problem of insufficient manpower for various industries
     Following is a question by the Hon Jimmy Ng and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, in the Legislative Council today (May 3):


     The Government has indicated in the 2022 Policy Address that many sectors in Hong Kong are facing the problem of manpower shortage, and relevant bureaux will listen to the views of the sectors and put forward solutions having regard to the situation of individual sectors, including launching a special scheme this year to allow the importation of care workers for residential care homes for the elderly and residential care homes for persons with disabilities on an appropriate scale, as well as streamlining the vetting and approval procedures for the relevant applications. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the results of its exchanges with the sectors on the problem of insufficient manpower; the expected time when more solutions will be rolled out and the details of relevant solutions;

(2) whether it will extend the aforesaid special scheme to other industries with insufficient manpower, such as the catering, laundry and retail industries; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether it will improve the Supplementary Labour Scheme by, for example, extending the maximum work contract period under the Scheme, expediting the vetting and approval of applications, and allowing the renewal of work contracts upon their expiry;

(4) how it addresses the succession problem of workers in the construction and transport industries; whether it will look into the situation of more industries with the problem of labour shortage; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) given that the Government has indicated that the key findings of the new round of Manpower Projection are anticipated to be available in the third quarter of next year, whether it can advance the completion of the Projection to facilitate the formulation of measures to address the problem of labour shortage as early as possible; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government is highly concerned about the supply and demand of manpower in Hong Kong. To address the challenges of labour shortage, the Government adopts a multi-pronged strategy, including promoting training and retraining, and providing appropriate employment and other support services, so as to encourage more people to join the work force. On the premise of safeguarding the employment priority for local workers, the Government allows 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.

     Having consulted the concerned bureaux, I provide a consolidated reply to the Member's question as follows:

(1) to (3) As pointed out by the Chief Executive in the 2022 Policy Address, many sectors in Hong Kong are facing manpower shortages, and relevant bureaux will listen to the views of the sectors and put forward solutions having regard to the situation of individual sectors. Apart from the special scheme to import care workers for residential care homes to be launched by the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) this June, the Development Bureau (DEVB) and the Transport and Logistics Bureau (TLB) are reviewing the labour shortage situation in the construction and transport sectors respectively to draw up relevant solutions.

     The Government and the Construction Industry Council (CIC) have been communicating with the industry on the manpower needs of the construction industry. The CIC regularly carries out manpower forecasts and consults the industry on the results of the forecasts. Making reference to the latest Construction Manpower Forecast published by the CIC this February, the DEVB is assessing how to address manpower demand of the construction industry, including leveraging local manpower resources, enhancing training and bringing in non-local resources as necessary, as well as reducing manpower needs through productivity uplifting measures.

     The TLB is paying close attention to the manpower situation of the transport sector. It has been maintaining communication with relevant stakeholders and actively reviewing the latest manpower situation of the respective trades, and will keep an open mind to explore the feasibility of different options.

     The target of the DEVB and the TLB is to complete the assessment and put forth preliminary proposals, so as to devise a holistic strategy and formulate relevant measures for addressing manpower needs of the sectors by mid-2023. Relevant work is in progress according to the target timeframe. The bureaux concerned will communicate with the industries and make announcement in due course.

     The Labour Department (LD) is considering the views of stakeholders and exploring feasible measures for enhancing the operation and workflow of processing applications under the Supplementary Labour Scheme (SLS), including shortening the processing time of applications as far as possible.

(4) To address the manpower situation of the construction industry, the Government collaborates with the CIC and the industry to adopt multi-pronged measures including:

(i) Enhancement of training: The Government provided a $1 billion funding to the CIC in 2022, subsidising a total of about 27 000 semi-skilled and skilled worker training places in the next six years;

(ii) Attracting more new entrants: The DEVB is working with the industry to implement the Hong Kong Construction Industry Joint Promotion Campaign to promote the professional image and development opportunities of the construction industry, and at the same time publicise the career ladders of different professional fields in the industry and provide young people with more internship opportunities. The campaign will provide construction-related STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) learning resources to secondary school students, enhancing their understanding of the construction industry; and

(iii) Uplifting productivity and reducing manpower demand: The Government has injected a total of $2.2 billion into the Construction Innovation and Technology Fund to promote the application of technology in the industry. Besides, the Government promotes high productivity construction, including the development of Modular Integrated Construction (MiC), and proposed an allocation of a total of $60 million in the Budget for this year to study the establishment of the Building Testing and Research Institute and the Advanced Construction Industry Building, etc.

     As for the transport sector, the Transport Department will continue to work in collaboration with relevant stakeholders (including the LD, the Employees Retraining Board and the public transport trades) to strengthen driver training and step up recruitment efforts. These include relaxing the requirements for applying commercial vehicle driving licences, enhancing taxi written tests, providing custom-made training courses and adopting diversified local recruitment channels. The Government also encourages public transport operators to keep improving the staff welfare through enhancement of remuneration and benefits, with a view to creating a better work environment and attracting more new entrants to the trade.

     The Government together with the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) and the aviation industry have taken a range of measures to relieve the pressure on manpower within the industry. These include organising large-scale job fairs, rolling out airport staff pooling scheme, enhancing airport staff's remuneration and benefits, improving transport arrangements for airport staff, proactively applying automation technologies for improving airport operation, and supporting the aviation industry in nurturing new blood and upgrading the skills of practitioners through the Maritime and Aviation Training Fund (MATF) and the Hong Kong International Aviation Academy. Meanwhile, the Government is soliciting the views from stakeholders on manpower shortage in the industry, and exploring with the AAHK the feasibility of various options, including the industry's suggestion of importing labour from other cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to meet the demand for airport frontline manpower, with a target to come up with relevant measures later this year to promote the sustainable development of manpower in the aviation industry.

     Regarding the maritime sector, the Government will continue to maintain close contact with the sector and implement various schemes and promotion programmes under the MATF so as to nurture talents and encourage more people to join the industry. For instance, the Maritime Training Support Scheme was launched in 2021 to facilitate the implementation of a new school-based curriculum of Maritime Studies by the Hong Kong Sea School to prepare students for qualifying as local coxswains.

     In addition, the Government introduced the Talent List of Hong Kong in 2018, with a view to attracting high-quality talents to support Hong Kong's development into a high value-added and diversified economy. The List currently covers marine insurance professionals, naval architects, marine engineers and superintendents of ships, and will be updated by the Government this year to tie in with Hong Kong's latest economic development and meet the ever-changing needs for different kinds of talents.

     Other bureaux will also continue to closely monitor the manpower situation of different industries and explore corresponding measures.

(5) The new round of Manpower Projection will commence in the middle of this year. The LWB is pressing ahead with the preparatory work, including conducting technical refinements to the projection methodologies and analytical framework, defining the coverage of sectors and occupations, exploring credible sources of data, developing the analysis scenario options and planning the sectoral consultation framework. Manpower Projection is a rigorous and very technical exercise. The subject Projection covers a wide range of industries and types of trades, which takes time to complete. We have endeavoured to compress the Projection procedures and the time required, anticipating that the key findings will be available in the third quarter of 2024.

     Before the completion of the Projection, relevant bureaux will listen to the views of sectors and put forward solutions having regard to the situation of sectors facing manpower shortages. On the premise of safeguarding the employment priority for local workers, for example, the LWB will launch the special scheme to allow importation of care workers for residential care homes for the elderly and residential care homes for persons with disabilities. The DEVB and the TLB are reviewing the labour shortage situation in the construction and transportation sectors respectively to draw up corresponding solutions.
Ends/Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:05
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