Rents, living costs scare foreign talent

Local | Daphne Li 28 Jun 2019

High rents and living costs in Hong Kong are deterring young foreign talent from settling in the city, an investigation by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups has found.

The Youth Research Centre of the organization conducted in-depth interviews in April and May with 21 overseas people, aged 18 to 39, and five scholars and professionals on foreign expatriates' tendency to stay in Hong Kong.

The research study found that most interviewees agree Hong Kong has its appeals to foreign expatriates, including social stability, public security, equality in the workplace and job opportunities.

Among the major negative factors they gave were high living costs and unfamiliarity with Hong Kong.

Concerns over Hong Kong's gradually diminishing level of freedom, worsening international image and language barrier also deterred them from staying in the city.

One interviewee, a British expatriate, said even though she enjoys the local work environment, she planned her pregnancy and decided to raise her child in Britain as the living cost in Hong Kong is too high.

A Japanese interviewee said she finds the language barrier a huge setback as Cantonese and Chinese are essential communication tools in Hong Kong.

She is also upset by a lack of community networks as she does not have many local friends.

A mainland student who studied in Hong Kong for a master's degree said the housing prices in the SAR are unaffordable and does not plan to settle in the city.

The report also cited statistics from the Immigration Department which showed that mainland workers account for 35 percent of the non-immigrant workforce, followed by Britons at 8.3 percent, Americans at 6.8 percent and Japanese at 6.3 percent.

The report criticized the policies for failing to attract international talent from different backgrounds.

Ernest Chan Ho-sing, convener of the employment and economic development sub-group of Youth IDEAS, said nearby mainland cities, such as Shenzhen, are opening up and delivering foreigner-friendly policies to expatriates.

"Hong Kong's level of freedom and political environment also make some foreign talent question their decision to stay in the city," he said.

Chan admitted the introduction of admission schemes for overseas talent remains a contentious topic in Hong Kong and urged the government to examine the option with great caution.

He also suggested that the government provide suitable education and training to local youngsters and explore the potential workforce.

The group also recommended that the government give short-term accommodation subsidies to young talent and follow in Singapore's footsteps in providing comprehensive information on careers, networking, investments and daily life to foreign expatriates.

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