SCMP Saturday, March 10, 2001

Critics unconvinced by need for imported skills


Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was told yesterday he could be snatching jobs from local graduates in allowing more mainland specialists to apply for work in the SAR.
But the Financial Secretary said there were not enough local graduates to meet the shortfall in information technology and financial services.
Mr Tsang announced on Wednesday that employers would be allowed to bring in mainland professionals in these fields to meet employers' immediate needs. No quota has been set. Currently, only mainland specialists with doctorates are eligible.
At a post-Budget briefing in the legislature, Mr Tsang said public support was high, judging from the findings of opinion polls and his first-hand exchanges with people in markets. But Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming questioned whether Mr Tsang had the complete picture.
"Although you have gone to the markets, you haven't gone to the campuses," said Mr Lee. "If the Government were to indefinitely import mainland specialists into Hong Kong, it could snatch away the biggest job opportunities for our university students and youngsters. What's the point of training our graduates if you turn them into unemployed?"
Mr Tsang said Hong Kong would face a shortage of up to 120,000 people with higher qualifications over the next five years. He said talent in these two fields was inadequate, adding that unemployment in IT and financial services was 1.5 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.
"Each year, there are 10,000-odd graduates from our universities. Can we fill these vacancies within five years? Even if we were to produce more [graduates in these fields], we can't produce that many," he said.
On the plan to allow mainland students to stay and work here after graduation from universities in Hong Kong, Mr Tsang said there were fewer than 300 mainland students here, so the effect on jobs for local graduates was not likely to be great.
Asked why he had not introduced in the Budget an earlier suggestion to offer financial assistance to Hong Kong students studying overseas, Mr Tsang said this was only his personal view. "It would have a great impact on local universities," he said. "We need a consensus before we can implement it. We should have further discussion in using taxpayers' money to offer financial assistance."