Almost 3 in 4 Hong Kong businesses short on talent

Employees leaving for better pay elsewhere, survey finds

Almost 3 in 4 Hong Kong businesses short on talent

Nearly three-quarters of employers in Hong Kong are suffering from talent shortages thanks to emigration and employees' desire for higher pay.

These are the findings of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce's (HKGCC) Talent Shortage Survey 2023, which surveyed 196 employers in April.

It found that 74% of employers were struggling with talent shortages, where 61% have been suffering from it for up to three years now.

Employers are also facing the biggest shortages for junior-level management (59%) and are struggling the least at the senior management level (1%), according to the survey.

Reasons for departure

The respondents blamed various factors for the shortages, including:

  • Desire for higher pay (79%)
  • Emigration (70%)
  • Desire for a better work-life balance (51%)
  • Desire for a more senior position/title (37%)
  • Moving to a different career field (34%)
  • Accepting overseas job offer (20%)

"The pursuit of higher salaries is only a derivative reason for manpower shortages as companies are willing to offer higher pay to retain staff. And we see emigration shows no signs of easing," said Outgoing chamber chief executive George Leung Siu-kay as quoted by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The findings come despite the median pay increase in Hong Kong returning to pre-pandemic levels at 4.5% this year, according to a survey from the Willis Towers Watson (WTW).

But Leung pointed out that increasing higher salary amid tight competition creates a "vicious cycle."

"The authorities need to figure out how to solve the shortages as increasing wages and competition to retain employees will only cause a vicious cycle in the labour market and affect productivity," he said as quoted by the SCMP.

Addressing the labour shortages

Hong Kong saw its workforce decline by 210,000 between 2019 and 2022, including who 94,100 who left the workforce in 2022 alone, according to the HKGCC.

To address the problem, employers said they implemented the following solutions:

  • Offering better remuneration packages (83%)
  • Investing in employee development (58%)
  • Investing in automation to reduce reliance on manpower (49%)
  • Relocated part or all of operations out of Hong Kong (21%)

The government also recently expanded its Talent List to include a total of 51 professions to attract more high-quality talent" to the financial hub.

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