SCMP Saturday, March 10, 2001

Jobs scheme 'will work this time'


Hundreds of mainland information technology (IT) and finance professionals are expected to apply to work in Hong Kong under a new admission scheme which will get under way before June, officials said yesterday.
Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the professional admission scheme, outlined in the Budget, would first target the IT and financial services sectors which needed operational and management professionals.
The Government forecasts the IT sector will face a shortage of 15,000 professionals by 2005 and 50,000 by 2010. Manpower needed in the financial services sector was also expected to rise to 219,300 by 2005 from 176,500 in 1999.
"To strengthen the competitive edge of Hong Kong, it is important to admit from mainland professionals not readily available in Hong Kong before sufficient local graduates are trained up by the local universities and enterprises," Mrs Ip said.
To avoid repeating the mistakes of a failed admission scheme in 1994, she said the Government would relax rules and streamline procedures with no quota imposed or restrictions on which university the applicants graduated from.
Non-degree holders may also be eligible if it was proven they possessed professional abilities or relevant experience and achievements. They would be allowed to change jobs one year after admission and would be allowed to remain in Hong Kong if the jobs were relevant to their skills. They would be eligible for right of abode after seven years.
The Immigration Department will issue visas to successful applicants within four weeks of receiving submissions and the mainland authorities will then issue a permit within 15 days.
"Administratively, it should be a lot more attractive. We expect applications to be in the hundreds," Mrs Ip said.
Eighty per cent of the 3,129 applications submitted for the 1994 pilot scheme were withdrawn partly because of tough rules that stated applicants would have to graduate from the top 36 mainland universities. Only 602 of the 1,000 quotas were filled when the scheme ended in 1997.
Successful applicants under the new scheme will not be allowed to bring their families to Hong Kong, but Mrs Ip said they did not anticipate any problems as the professionals were expected to be young and unmarried. The Government is also reviewing whether it will allow mainland students studying in Hong Kong to apply for the scheme in the SAR directly.
Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said he feared the scheme would bring down the wages of the local market because of the increased supply. But Mrs Ip said immigration officials would check if applicants were given salaries comparable with the local market.
Vice-president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, Judy Leung Wai-chu, said professionals needed ranged from programmers, who earned $10,000 to $20,000 a month, to system architects, who could earn up to $2 million a year.
Director of Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce Dr Eden Woon said the scheme would also help non-IT companies which needed technology to increase productivity.