An acute labour shortage in certain sectors is hurting our competiveness and undermining Hong Kong's economic growth.
We have the necessary tools to fix this problem, but lack the will to act. That needs to change, or Hong Kong will underperform as the global economy improves.
Let's be clear: the problem isn't jobs, and it isn't wages. We have little trouble generating employment in this town, and if higher wages were the answer, we wouldn't face rapidly rising numbers of vacancies in a very wide range of industries and job categories.
The problem is more structural than cyclical, and the solutions need to be as well.
Over the past decade, our population has grown by 392,000, our labour force by 311,000 and our total employment by more than 436,000. The number of job vacancies has increased by nearly 15 per cent a year since 2002, and as of the first quarter of this year, 80,170 positions were open in the private sector. In 10 years, we've gone from 15 people available for every job vacancy to fewer than two.
What changed? In 2002, we hosted 16.6 million visitors, 41.2 per cent of whom came from other parts of China. Last year, it was 48.6 million, with 71.8 per cent from the mainland. Retail sales have increased 9.7 per cent per annum over the past decade and two-way trade by 8.7 per cent a year. No wonder we have a tight labour market.
The figures ...