Following is a question by Dr the Hon Johnny Ng and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (June 8):
In the IMD World Talent Ranking 2021, Hong Kong has declined from 18th position to 26th in terms of the “Appeal” factor. There are comments pointing out that Hong Kong is facing a rapidly ageing population, continuously declining fertility rates, talent wastage caused by emigration tides, and challenges posed by the global competition for talents. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has compiled statistics on the number of Hong Kong permanent residents emigrating from Hong Kong since the outbreak of the epidemic; if so, of the following details of such people: average age, number of people with educational attainment at above post-secondary level, and number of people with professional expertise; whether policies and plans are in place to retain such talents or attract them to return to Hong Kong;
(2) whether it has evaluated the effectiveness of various admission schemes for Mainland and overseas talents in promoting the development of the local economy and industries; if so, of the details;
(3) of the plans to be put in place by the Government in the coming three years to enrich the talent pool through a three-pronged approach of nurturing, attracting and retaining local and overseas talents, so as to promote the development of Hong Kong into a knowledge-based and innovation-and-technology-driven economy; whether it will (i) nurture a broad spectrum of talents through measures such as vocational training and professional skills programmes, (ii) set up more start-up and investment funds for specific sectors, and (iii) provide tax concessions with a view to attracting Mainland and overseas talents as well as enterprises to pursue development in Hong Kong; and
(4) given that in recent years quite a number of children of Hong Kong residents receive professional training in the Mainland cities of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area) and have built a vision of having “roots in Hong Kong, a heart for China, a global perspective and a broad mind”, whether the Government will establish a mutual recognition mechanism of academic and professional qualifications in the Greater Bay Area, and introduce policies to provide such talents with housing benefits and living allowances, etc., so as to attract them to return and pursue development in Hong Kong?
In response to the various parts of the question raised, in consultation with the Security Bureau, the Innovation and Technology Bureau, the Education Bureau (EDB), the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, the Office of the Government Economist and the Census and Statistics Department, my reply is as follows:
(1) Hong Kong residents travelling abroad are not required to inform the Government of their purpose of travel. Therefore, the Government does not have direct statistics on emigration of Hong Kong residents. According to the net movement figures of Hong Kong residents (i.e. inflow of Hong Kong residents less outflow) announced half-yearly, a net outflow of 96 000 and 27 000 Hong Kong residents was recorded in 2020 and 2021 respectively (the latter figure is provisional). These figures already covered the movement of Hong Kong residents into and out of Hong Kong for various purposes such as work, study and emigration. However, the breakdown of figures is not available. As the process of collecting relevant data does not involve tracking individuals’ identity, the statistics cannot be further broken down to inflow and outflow of these residents, nor identified whether they are Hong Kong permanent residents.
The Government considers that people’s decision to remain in or leave Hong Kong are based on many factors, such as education, business and investment opportunities, as well as other personal and family considerations. The Government will continue to consolidate the advantages of Hong Kong, leveraging the Central Government’s supporting policies to bring continuous impetus to the development of different sectors in Hong Kong. The Government will continue to strengthen its effort in explaining the prospects and opportunities of Hong Kong to the public, with a view to helping them appreciate Hong Kong’s development potential and value of Hong Kong towards national development, thereby boosting their confidence for the future and strengthening their willingness to stay and contribute towards Hong Kong’s future development.
(2) Bringing together talents from around the world is vital to strengthening Hong Kong’s competitiveness and future development. On the premise of ensuring priority for employment of the local workforce, the various existing talent admission schemes bring in non-local talents in different fields, which help enlarge Hong Kong’s talent pool to complement the development of Hong Kong’s knowledge-based economy and diversified industries.
Before the pandemic, the number of talents admitted under various talent admission schemes were steadily on the rise. In 2019, around 67 000 non-locals were admitted through various talent admission schemes, equivalent to around 2 per cent of Hong Kong’s labour force back then. The majority of the non-local talents were admitted under the General Employment Policy or the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals, both of which were designed for admitting talents who possess special skills, knowledge or experience in shortage locally, supporting the development of relevant industries. In line with the current-term Government’s commitment to promote the development of innovation and technology (I&T), the Government launched the Technology Talent Admission Scheme in 2018 to provide fast-track arrangement for admitting overseas and Mainland talents to conduct research and development work in Hong Kong, as well as the Global STEM Professorship Scheme last year to support universities in recruiting more internationally renowned scholars to conduct research and teaching activities related to I&T in Hong Kong.
Upon consultation with stakeholders of relevant industries, the Government completed a review on the Talent List in October 2021 and decided to increase the professions covered under the List from 11 to 13, add and expand the scope of some existing professions, with a view to reflecting Hong Kong’s latest demand for targeted talents and attracting them to come to Hong Kong for development through the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme.
Although the numbers of persons admitted in Hong Kong under these talent admission schemes in 2020 and 2021 have dropped compared with that in 2019 as a result of the pandemic, with the Government making appropriate adjustments to arrangements such as the post-arrival quarantine period and the flight ban, together with the continual development of Hong Kong, we believe more talents will be attracted to come to Hong Kong when the pandemic stabilises.
(3) The Government is committed to developing the I&T industries, and has been adopting a multi-pronged approach to enlarge the I&T talent pool through nurturing, attracting and retaining talent with a series of initiatives. The major initiatives and schemes include IT Innovation Lab in Secondary Schools Programme, Knowing More About IT Programme, STEM Internship Scheme, Research Talent Hub, Innovation and Technology Scholarship, Global STEM Professorship Scheme, Reindustrialisation and Technology Training Programme, Technology Talent Admission Scheme and the InnoCell in the Hong Kong Science Park. In addition, the Vocational Training Council (VTC) is also dedicated to promoting and supporting STEM education, for instance, fostering the teaching and learning of STEM subjects through the VTC STEM Education Centre, co-operating with the industry to develop career-experience courses, as well as organising various types of STEM workshops and competitions to inspire teenagers’ interest in science subjects.
Looking ahead, this year’s Budget has earmarked $10 billion to promote the development of life and health technology in Hong Kong, including hardware, research talents, etc., with the aim of enabling institutions, including universities, to enhance their capacity and capability in this area. Furthermore, the InnoLife Healthtech Hub under planning will also pool together top notch research teams from all over the world for research collaboration. Meanwhile, the Government will double the maximum annual funding support under the Innovation and Technology Fund for the 16 State Key Laboratories in Hong Kong and six Hong Kong Branches of Chinese National Engineering Research Centres to $440 million in total, so that they can have more resources to carry out various tasks, which include nurturing local talents and furthering co-operation and exchanges with institutions in the Mainland.
Furthermore, the Government has also all along been offering comprehensive assistance to start-ups at their different stages of development through different investment funds, including the Innovation and Technology Venture Fund under the Innovation and Technology Fund, Corporate Venture Fund of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and Cyberport Macro Fund of Cyberport which are intended to assist local I&T start-ups to attract more private investment while providing funding support for them at different stages of development, so as to enhance the I&T ecosystem in Hong Kong. The Budget also announced the setting up of the $5 billion Strategic Tech Fund under the Hong Kong Growth Portfolio. The Fund will focus on investing in technology enterprises with strategic value, considerable scale and development potential, so as to further enrich the local I&T ecosystem. To encourage more enterprises to conduct research and development (R&D) work in Hong Kong, the Government offers tax deduction for qualifying R&D expenditure incurred by enterprises on or after April 1, 2018. The relevant tax deduction is 300 per cent for the first $2 million of the relevant aggregate expenditure and 200 per cent for the remaining expenditure. There is no cap on the amount of the relevant tax deduction.
(4) In terms of the recognition of qualifications, the EDB and the Hong Kong Qualifications Framework (HKQF) Secretariat have been liaising and co-operating closely with relevant Mainland authorities in developing and implementing the qualifications framework. In June 2019, the EDB and the Department of Education of Guangdong Province signed the Letter of Intent on Qualifications Framework Co-operation between Hong Kong and Guangdong to drive the co-operation between Guangdong and Hong Kong in relation to qualifications frameworks. In early 2022, with the support of the EDB, the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications accepted an invitation from the relevant authorities in the Guangdong Province to provide a two-year consultancy service to support the development of the Guangdong Lifelong Education Qualifications Framework. The HKQF Secretariat has also accepted an invitation from the relevant authorities in the Guangdong Province to share its relevant experience and support the latter to develop and implement Specifications of Competency Standards under their qualifications framework. The EDB will continue to liaise and collaborate with the Guangdong authorities on the development and application of the QF and quality assurance mechanism.
Relevant bureaux and departments also maintained communication with relevant Mainland authorities for individual professions. For example, under the framework of the Agreement on Trade in Services of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, there is a mutual examination paper exemption arrangement for the accounting professional qualification between Hong Kong and the Mainland. A Mainland certified public accountant (CPA) is only required to pass the taxation module and final capstone exam of Hong Kong’s professional qualification programme and fulfill other relevant requirements such as practical accounting experience requirement, etc. for obtaining the Hong Kong CPA qualification. The Government will continue to examine various arrangements for attracting talents with a view to enriching Hong Kong’s talent pool.