Sat, Feb 11, 2012 - Page 11 News List

Hong Kong to face skilled labor shortage in future

Bloomberg, Hong Kong

Hong Kong will face a shortfall of 22,000 workers with higher education by 2018 as the city’s population ages, the government said in its first forecast of a shortage since it began the study in 1988.

The city, which has a total population of about 7.2 million, will need an additional 500 people with degrees in six years’ time, while it will have an 8,500 surplus of employable people with “lower education,” the city’s Labor and Welfare Bureau said in a report.

The Hong Kong government has turned to China to try to attract talent to meet a manpower deficiency, as it faces increasing challenges to lure professionals from elsewhere because of competition from other cities, including Singapore. Asia’s elderly population is poised to double within four decades, according to the UN.

“Aging population is one of the key population policy issues on which the government has been focusing its efforts,” the bureau said. “As the retirees leave the labor force, the growth in manpower supply will be hindered.”

About 17 percent of Hong Kong’s population will be at least 65 years old by 2018, compared with 13 percent last year, according to the Census and Statistics Department. The city has the lowest birth rate in a government list that includes five countries, and the gap is projected to widen.

Hong Kong had granted residence to 40,933 Chinese professionals and skilled people by the end of 2010 under an admission plan started in 2003, according to the government’s Web site.

Hong Kong faces increasing challenges to lure professionals because of competition from cities such as Tokyo for quality of living. Singapore was 25th, Tokyo 46th and Hong Kong 70th in Mercer LLC’s quality of life list published in November.

Pollution, high home prices and difficulties in finding school places for expatriate children are cited as reasons foreign professionals choose not to live in Hong Kong.

The city’s schools have failed to keep up with record numbers of applications. In a survey of American Chamber of Commerce members in May last year, 63 percent said some executives are driven away by the lack of student places.

Property prices have surged about 66 percent since early 2009 on record low mortgage rates, a lack of new supply and an influx of buyers from other parts of China. The government has imposed measures to prevent the formation of an asset bubble since late 2010.

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