HK set to open its doors wider

Liang Hongfu

2007-12-18 01:20:10  China Daily      

The Hong Kong government is set to overhaul its immigration policy with the aim of making it easier for mainland and overseas talent to live and work in the city.

This is a welcome step because it will remove what is widely seen as a major hurdle to Hong Kong's efforts to attract qualified immigrants to help the development of its services, especially finance, and information technology industries, which are the pillars of the local economy.

To sustain growth of the services sector, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of Hong Kong's GDP, it is necessary to continuously expand the pool of talent in diverse fields, including finance, technology, logistics, trade services, tourism and entertainment. Efforts to attract mainland and overseas talent to Hong Kong are taking on special urgency not only because of intensifying competition from other cities, particularly Singapore, but also the rapidly aging population resulting from years of low, or negative, birth rates. It seems the demand for high caliber professionals and corporate executives has outstripped the supply, as evidenced by the disproportionately sharp increase in wages at the higher levels of the employment market.

Hong Kong enjoys certain distinct advantages over many Asian cities in the competition for talent. Beyond its vibrant economy, underlined by a free market environment, Hong Kong has a blend of some of the most distinctive elements of Chinese and Western cultures, exemplified by a unique combination of orderliness and exotica. Hong Kong is as exciting as many other Asian boomtowns, and yet it is no less efficient than a typical European city with a much smaller population.

Traffic is always busy on the main roads and side streets. But traffic jams are rare and the dreadful gridlock that plagues many other Asian cities is almost non-existent. The streets are always crowded. But pushing and shoving are considered boorish by Hong Kong people.

Hong Kong's natural beauty is unrivalled anywhere in the world. The breathtaking view of its harbor, the many pristine beaches, idyllic country parks and charming outlying islands provide a most pleasing counterpoint to the hectic pace of city life.

Housing costs are high, but no more so than in other financial centers. For international banks and multinational corporations, housing costs are a concern only when the opportunity to make money begins to dry up. And this situation is not happening in Hong Kong as the local economy, riding the boom on the mainland, is rapidly expanding.

It is within this context that the government takes the initiative to revamp its immigration policy, which calls for, among other things, the establishment of a one-stop service center to process all applications under various migrant schemes. This means that an applicant will in future need to submit only one form for processing.

Other amendments to the policy include the scrapping of the age restrictions and lowering of experience requirements. Under the present scoring system used to vet applicants, those who are older than 50 and those with less than five years of work experience win no points in their respective categories. The details of the proposed changes have not been announced. But according to a government official quoted by the local press, the objective is to broaden the pool of qualified applicants.

The increasing number of mainland students studying in Hong Kong universities will be allowed to stay in Hong Kong for up to one year after graduation to look for jobs if they so wish. At present, they must find jobs before graduation if they want to stay in Hong Kong.