The Government is expected to implement an array of new initiatives targeted at "competing for enterprises" and "competing for talents". Here are some policy highlights for businesses and HR leaders.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee delivered his inaugural Policy Address on 19 October 2022 (Wednesday). Titled 'Charting a Brighter Tomorrow for Hong Kong', the Policy Address, which he described as a "Policy Address for Hong Kong citizens", has outlined his initiatives for the city’s development in the next five years.
Apart from addressing important livelihood issues such as housing and healthcare, according to the Policy Address, the Government is also expecting to implement an array of new initiatives targeted at "competing for enterprises" and "competing for talents" more proactively and aggressively.
Here are some policy highlights that businesses and HR leaders may want to note.
Attracting enterprises, investment, and talents
Lee said the Government will put in place new institutional setups targeted at attracting enterprises, investment and talent, as well as enhance existing talent admission schemes to increase Hong Kong's competitiveness. These include:
- Establishing the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises (OASES), led by the Financial Secretary, for attracting high-potential and representative strategic enterprises from around the globe, particularly those from industries of strategic importance, such as life and health technology, artificial intelligence and data science, financial technology (fintech), and advanced manufacturing and new energy technology. The office will provide them with special facilitation measures covering aspects such as land, tax and financing, and one-stop services in areas such as visa application and education arrangements for their children.
- Establishing the Talents Service Unit, led by the Chief Secretary for Administration, for formulating strategies to recruit talents from the Mainland and overseas and co-ordinating relevant work, as well as providing one-stop support for incoming talents, aiming to attract at least 35,000 talents annually.
- Setting aside HK$30bn from the Future Fund to establish the Co-Investment Fund for attracting enterprises to set up operations in Hong Kong and investing in their business.
- Setting up dedicated teams for attracting businesses and talents in the Mainland offices and overseas Economic and Trade Offices (ETOs) of the Government to proactively reach out to target enterprises and talents and persuade them to pursue development in Hong Kong.
To trawl the world for talents, the Government will launch the Top Talent Pass Scheme. Eligible talents will include:
- Individuals whose annual salary reached HK$2.5mn or above in the past year, and individuals graduated from the world's top 100 universities with at least three years of work experience over the past five years, will be issued a two-year pass for exploring opportunities in Hong Kong and are not subject to any quota.
- Individuals who graduated from the world's top 100 universities in the past five years and have yet to fulfil the work experience requirement will also be eligible, subject to an annual quota of 10,000.
The Government will also enhance six existing talent admission schemes:
- Streamline the General Employment Policy (GEP) and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP), such that for vacancies falling under the 13 professions with shortage of local supply as listed in the Talent List or for vacancies with an annual salary of HK$2mn or above, employers are not required to provide proof to substantiate their difficulties in local recruitment in making applications for talent admission.
- Suspend the annual quota under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) for a period of two years, and improve the approval process.
- Relax the Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG) by extending the limit of stay from one year to two years to facilitate their staying in or coming to Hong Kong for work; and expand the scope of the arrangements to cover those who graduated from the GBA campus of a Hong Kong university on a pilot basis for a period of two years.
- Enhance the Technology Talent Admission Scheme (TechTAS) by lifting the local employment requirement, extending the quota validity period to two years and expanding the coverage to more emerging technology areas.
- Extend the limit of stay of employment visas so that talents admitted under the existing and newly launched talent admission schemes and securing employment may be issued with an employment visa which will be valid for a maximum period of three years.
- Eligible incoming talents, who have become permanent residents upon residing in Hong Kong for seven years, can apply for a refund of the Buyer's Stamp Duty and the New Residential Stamp Duty paid for the first residential property purchased which they still own, while the Ad Valorem Stamp Duty at Scale 2 rates is still payable such that the overall stamp duty charged will be on par with that charged on first‑time home buyers who are ordinary permanent residents.
Grooming local young talents
Lee said young people are Hong Kong's future. "Hong Kong will prosper only when its young people thrive". Therefore, the Government will attach great importance to education and youth development, which includes:
- Publishing the first edition of the Youth Development Blueprint within this year, and introducing a series of initiatives to assist young people in overcoming difficulties in education, career pursuits, entrepreneurship and home ownership.
- Increasing the number of UGC-funded research postgraduate (RPg) places by about 1,600, from some 5,600 at present to 7,200 in the 2024/25 academic year.
- Expanding the STEM Internship Scheme, by offering local I&T internship opportunities to university students studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programmes overseas or at GBA campuses established by designated local universities.
- Increasing the number of industries adopting the Vocational Qualifications Pathway (VQP) under the Qualifications Framework from six to at least 18 in the next five years
- Launching the Youth Participation Initiative, and expanding the Member Self-recommendation Scheme for Youth, to engage more young people in public affairs and encourage them to participate in community development.
- Working with all sectors of the community on a variety of activities to help young people broaden their horizons, and acquire a better understanding of the development of the country and the world.
Improving labour rights and occupational safety, promoting diversity and inclusion
Lee also mentioned the following initiatives to improve labour rights and occupational safety, as well as empower women and ethnic minorities:
- Inviting the Minimum Wage Commission to study how to enhance the review mechanism of the statutory minimum wage, including the review cycle, how to improve efficiency, and balancing a host of factors such as the minimum wage level and sustained economic development, and make proposals to the Government.
- Setting a good example and further reviewing the arrangement relating to the employment of non-skilled workers under government outsourced service contracts, including remuneration of workers, as well as relevant monitoring mechanisms.
- Enhancing the procedures of the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund, including providing legal services by the Fund to assist employees in filing winding-up or bankruptcy petitions against insolvent employers, so as to expedite the disbursement of ex-gratia payment to affected employees.
- Inviting the Employees Retraining Board to consider raising the daily rate of retraining allowance and providing allowances for half-day courses for implementation by the first quarter of 2023 to encourage the public to enrol in training and enter the workforce.
- Sparing no effort in investigating each and every fatal industrial accident, pursuing responsibilities of those who should be held accountable and putting in place improvement measures. Passage of the relevant bill will be sought under the LegCo as soon as possible to increase the maximum penalties for occupational safety offences, thereby enhancing their deterrent effect.
- Increasing funding for organising activities to promote women development by the Women's Commission from HK$4mn to HK$10mn per annum in the next three years. A Women Empowerment Fund will be set up to subsidise community projects that support women in balancing job and family commitments, and unleashing their potential.
- Recruiting more ethnic minorities for appointment as Employment Assistants and General Assistants in the Labour Department, and setting up a service centre on a trial basis to provide emotional support and counselling for ethnic minorities, to further enhance the support for ethnic minorities.
Driving the development of various industries
Lee said the priority "is to reinforce our position as an international financial centre, and promote the development of two emerging industries, namely I&T and arts and culture".
At the same time, the Government will "continue to play our role as an international trade centre and fully capitalise on our shipping and aviation development to enhance our functions in the regional supply chain. We will also continue to enhance our strengths in legal services and develop Hong Kong into a regional intellectual property (IP) trading centre".
Providing further support for SMEs
Several initiatives will be launched to further support SMEs:
- Raise the level of funding support under the Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading and Domestic Sales (the BUD Fund) and the SME Export Marketing Fund to HK$7mn and HK$1mn respectively. The special measure to expand its funding scope will also be extended to 30 June 2026 to continue to cover exhibitions and online exhibitions targeting the local market, and the eligibility criteria will be relaxed to cover non-SMEs.
- Guangdong ETO will set up a dedicated promotion centre to support the development of Hong Kong people and enterprises in the GBA. The HKTDC will also set up more GoGBA Business Support Centres to cover all nine Mainland cities in the GBA, and organise business missions, training, etc. in various Mainland provinces and municipalities.
- The Pre-approved Principal Payment Holiday Scheme will be extended for another six months to 31 July 2023, through the Banking Sector SME Lending Coordination Mechanism of the HKMA, and the principal repayment option will be enhanced.
- Continue to reduce 75% of water and sewage charges for non-domestic accounts for eight months from 1 December 2022 to 31 July 2023, subject to a monthly ceiling of HK$20,000 and HK$12,500 respectively per household.
- Continue to provide 75% rental or fee concessions currently applicable to eligible tenants of government premises and eligible short-term tenancies and waivers under the Lands Department for six months from 1 January 2023 to 30 June 2023.
Enhancing the Government's governance capability
Lee said the Government will further improve governance through the following initiatives:
- Introduce the "red team" concept in day-to-day decision-making. The "red team" will play the role of critics and opponents to facilitate a thorough review of the effectiveness of policy decisions and execution plans, so as to plug any loopholes and improve the policies.
- Be result-oriented, having set about 110 various indicators (including key performance indicators or KPIs), for monitoring the progress and effectiveness of specific tasks and making timely improvements.
- Strengthen the Civil Service reward and punishment system by launching the 'Chief Executive's Award for Exemplary Performance' next year to identify officers with good potential and outstanding performance, and provide them with enhanced training and advancement opportunities. For officers whose performance remains persistently sub-standard despite supervision and assistance, their appointment should be terminated in a timely manner.
Commenting on Lee’s policy address, Prof. Frankie Lam, Associate Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Associate Director of Taught Postgraduate Programmes, Lingnan University, believes the Chief Executive has proposed a few practical solutions to talent challenges of different segments of industries, including financial services, high tech, healthcare, etc.
“I particularly praise the initiative to have a central coordinator/s to address talent issues across units and departments,” he said, in response to queries by Human Resources Online. “For example, the British Government has announced a lowering of criteria for those born after 1997 to get the BNO. A central unit can quickly analyse the impact, come up with solutions, and coordinate across units and departments to endorse and implement relevant solutions.”
Talking about how businesses and HR leaders should deploy their talent strategies accordingly in the coming years, Prof. Lam suggests the Government consider financial incentives for business leaders and industries to invest in AI and IT to improve workforce productivity.
This, he said, may help to overcome “the temptation of business leaders, in particular the labour intensive segments e.g. hospitality and nursery, to overcome the labour cost or labour shortage issues by ‘importing’ labour, instead of investing in AI / IT to make the roles less labour intensive.”
“To become a truly SMART City, business leaders have to invest in various technologies to improve the workforce efficiency, including less reliance on ‘labour’.”
He also suggests business and HR leaders embrace the values of diversity & inclusion and ESG when deploying their talent strategies. “As a leading financial center in the world, we must embrace the values of diversity, inclusion and ESG. They are the values for not only businesses, but all residents to live with, and ESG is also good for our city's future (and for our children).”
Image / HKSAR Government Press Releases