Hong Kong’s labor market has seen its sharpest drop on record, underscoring the city’s challenges with an aging population and outflow of talent.
The Asian hub’s working population fell by 94,100, down 2.4 percent in 2022, according to data released Monday by the Census and Statistics Department. This is the largest labor plummet since the government began keeping records in 1985.
Hong Kong is running an uphill battle as the government seeks to kick-start an economy that recorded its third annual contraction in four years. Tens of thousands of people, including lawyers and bankers, left the city following the national security law and strict pandemic curbs.
A labor shortage will affect services for the public and the city’s competitiveness, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said at a daily press conference on Tuesday.
Lee has made attracting talent a key priority for his administration. Last October, he started a global talent program that includes a two-year visa plan for high-income workers and top university graduates.
So far, the program has mostly attracted interest from Chinese. Most of the 10,000 some applications are from the mainland, according to local media.
The city is also competing with Singapore to attract wealth business. The government announced in March that it would cut taxes for family offices.
One of Hong Kong’s biggest hurdles is staffing up its tourism sector dented by Covid
curbs. The industry, along with exports, could help the economy grow by an estimated 7.6 percent, according to a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. forecast.