In an ambitious move to bolster its talent pool and achieve its goal of attracting 35,000 professionals annually, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has significantly expanded its “talent list” from 13 to 51 professions — an increase of nearly 300 percent.
It’s worth noting that this expansion does not imply a blanket acceptance of all applicants. Rather, it adheres to several principles aimed at maintaining existing professional qualifications and registration procedures, ensuring no adverse impact on local employment, and guaranteeing the quality of incoming talent. By fulfilling these conditions, the simultaneous recruitment of professionals alongside local talent development can create a mutually beneficial environment.
Like cities around the world, Hong Kong is engaged in a fierce competition for talent. As the city enters a new phase of development characterized by a push for high-quality growth, it requires a substantial influx of talent. Some of these professionals are difficult to cultivate locally or are scarce, particularly in areas such as innovation and technology. Furthermore, Hong Kong faces challenges posed by an aging population, labor shortages across various sectors, and recent emigration trends that have led to the outflow of local talent, exacerbating the demand for professionals within the city. In response to these challenges, the government has implemented various measures, including increasing the annual quota under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme to 4,000, which received an overwhelming response surpassing expectations. Building upon this experience and conducting extensive consultations, the government has further expanded the talent list to align with Hong Kong’s specific needs.
The expanded talent list now covers 51 professions across nine key sectors and applies to the three existing talent admission programs. The inclusion of healthcare services and development and construction as entirely new areas is a logical step. The former includes doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives, while the latter encompasses civil and structural engineering, as well as mechanical and electrical engineering. The addition of these sectors carries significant implications. Hong Kong has long grappled with a shortage of medical professionals, prompting recent efforts by the government to attract healthcare talent from overseas, albeit with limited impact. By incorporating healthcare services into the list, the government has sent a stronger signal to attract more medical specialists to the city. Similarly, with the construction sector currently experiencing a shortage of around 10 percent of professionals, coupled with the future need for extensive infrastructure development such as the Northern Metropolis and the artificial islands in the central waters, the demand for talent is unprecedented. Hence, tapping into global expertise represents the most effective solution.
Hong Kong’s pursuit of talent must be accompanied by efforts to nurture local talent, ensuring a balanced and robust workforce. With careful consideration, periodic revisions and targeted policies, Hong Kong can solidify its position as a global magnet for talent and continue its journey toward high-quality development
Expanding the talent list enhances transparency in the recruitment of professionals, enabling the Hong Kong community to identify sectors experiencing talent shortages and facilitating social consensus. Moreover, it allows for more-precise targeting of overseas professionals. However, it is crucial to note that while the talent list expedites the approval process, it does not automatically grant immediate employment in Hong Kong. Overseas professionals must still undergo the existing employment registration procedures and obtain professional qualifications before providing services. Taking the recruitment of overseas doctors as an example, these medical professionals had to meet specific criteria and successfully register before being issued work permits in Hong Kong. Therefore, broadening the talent list facilitates an increase in talent applications, which should be distinguished from obtaining professional qualifications and work permits. Relevant industry organizations play a crucial role in ensuring the integrity of the process, guaranteeing that recruited professionals are qualified and aligned with Hong Kong’s needs, without compromising the city’s professional service standards.
As an international metropolis and a hub for the eight key areas development initiative, Hong Kong is highly attractive to both local and international talent. However, in the current global competition for talent, Hong Kong cannot afford to be complacent. It must periodically review and update the talent list to optimize its policies and enhance its appeal to prospective professionals.
While no city’s development relies solely on external talent, attracting foreign expertise provides a buffer and serves as a beneficial supplement to local talent development. This fact is beyond doubt. While Hong Kong actively seeks overseas professionals, it must also strengthen its efforts in cultivating local talent. This includes allocating more resources and implementing proactive talent policies. Only through a dual approach can Hong Kong provide the necessary talent support for sustainable, high-quality development.
In conclusion, Hong Kong’s decision to expand the talent list demonstrates its determination to attract professionals and foster sustainable growth. By broadening the range of eligible professions and streamlining the approval process, the government aims to address talent shortages and support the city’s development in crucial sectors. The expansion enhances transparency and provides clarity for overseas professionals, but it is essential to note that it does not diminish the significance of professional qualifications and work permits. Hong Kong’s pursuit of talent must be accompanied by efforts to nurture local talent, ensuring a balanced and robust workforce. With careful consideration, periodic revisions and targeted policies, Hong Kong can solidify its position as a global magnet for talent and continue its journey toward high-quality development.
The author is a member of China Retold and Hong Kong Quality and Talent Migrants Association.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS