SCMP Saturday, October 7, 2000

Mainland job-seekers turned back despite shortage of workers


Talented mainlanders prepared to accept "lower than reasonable wages" have had their applications to work in Hong Kong rejected by immigration officials to protect the labour market.
Assistant Director for Immigration Henry Siu Chung-kit brushed aside criticism that the department had been too stringent in handling applications under its Admission of Talents Scheme.
Of 349 applications received since the scheme was launched in December, only 74 were approved. Nearly half, or 166 applications, were turned down and 53 were withdrawn. The remaining 56 cases were still being processed.
The Admission of Talents Scheme aims to attract people with expertise and skills from outside Hong Kong, especially from the mainland, to work in the SAR. It sets no quota but requires professionals to "enhance the competitiveness" of the Hong Kong economy. Applications must be submitted by employers who have businesses in the SAR.
Mr Siu said the department had turned down the applications for different reasons, including unreasonable level of salaries offered. But the department did not provide details.
"The salaries offered to the people involved did not reflect the jobs they were doing, or the payment was lower than the level in the local market. Therefore, we turned down those applications," he said.
Some people did not have the relevant training or work experience for the jobs they applied for or they failed to show they could enhance Hong Kong's competitiveness, he said. Mr Siu also admitted Hong Kong was faced with fierce competition from overseas including Singapore, Germany and the United States, to attract talented people with special skills.
He blamed local companies for not making sufficient effort in the research and development field to attract talented people.
"Even some local companies, which conduct research and development, choose to set up their base on the mainland rather than in the SAR," he said. "As a result, Hong Kong provides fewer opportunities for talented people to develop here."