Hong Kong talent: Great at recruitment, lacking in development

Hong Kong drops six places in international ranking for attracting and retaining talent, the Switzerland-based Institute for Management Development (IMD) says.

The city comes in 18th out of 63 countries, down from 12th last year. Ranking 13th, Singapore has taken over Hong Kong’s crown to be the best in Asia Pacific to draw and develop talent.

Expats love it, locals lag

IMD says Hong Kong mostly excels in drawing overseas highly-skilled professionals to sustain its top-tier talent pool. However, the city is not doing enough to develop its own.

Hong Kong fares well in terms of its appeal for talent and the skillfulness of its talent pool, standing at 13th and 9th in these two areas. However, it performs the worst in fostering talent at home, coming in 31st out of 63 countries.

Education, housing and politics to blame

From 2014 to 2018, Hong Kong has been the poorest in developing its homegrown talent. The IMD points to the insufficient public investment in education.

The city’s total public expenditure on education made up 3.3 percent of its GDP, coming in at 56th among the 63 places featured in the study.

In response to the report, chief executive Mrs Carrie Lam says she cares about fostering talent and has set aside HK$8.3 billion for education.

Hong Kong’s dire housing problem also contributes to placing the city at 61st in terms of cost-of-living index, turning many people away.

The city has been associated with the world’s least affordable housing. An average Hong Kong family needs to save their entire income for 19.4 years to buy a home.

1C2S Politics a drag

Local scholars and lawmakers also attribute political woes and confusing policies to the difficulty in retaining local talent.

“Many young people are not happy with the current political and social situation. The worsening China-Hong Kong relations also give people the idea of emigration. This will further dent Hong Kong’s competitiveness,” says Dr Chung Kim-wah, assistant professor Department of Applied Social Sciences at PolyU.

Mr Charles Mok, an IT lawmaker, also says the government’s policies send out mixed messages.

“The government always claims there’s not enough talent, so we need to recruit from overseas. On the other hand, it encourages local talent to pursue their career elsewhere, such as in China. This is confusing to local people,” Mr Mok says.

Still competitive, but talent also important

According to the IMD, Hong Kong stands out in female workforce, finance skills, international experience and educational assessment – which are not at all surprising in a city often dubbed as the “international financial centre”.

These factors might have helped Hong Kong to stay highly competitive amid its weakness in retaining and attracting talent.

In the World Competitiveness Ranking also released by the IMD this year, Hong Kong ranks second after the U.S. The city is followed by Singapore, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

But Mr Arturo Bris, Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center, points out that competitiveness and talent pool go hand in hand.

“Cultivating a skilled and educated workforce is crucial to strengthening competitiveness and achieving long-term prosperity,” Mr Bris says.

He notes that it is especially crucial when artificial intelligence, robotics and other new technologies redefine challenges for the governments, businesses and society.

The IMD report also shows that in Asia, Malaysia climbs six places to reach 22nd out of 63 countries, followed by Taiwan (27th), Japan (29th), South Korea (33rd) and China (39th).

European cities top the list, with Switzerland in first and Denmark in second, followed by Norway, Austria and the Netherlands.