Members’ Motions: “Promoting the nurturing of local professional services talents”
MR CHAN CHUN-YING:
President, financial services, trading and logistics, tourism and professional and producer services are the four traditional pillar industries of Hong Kong, with professional services covering legal, accounting, auditing, architectural, surveying, project management, business management and consultancy services, information technology and advertising services, and so on. The professional standards of these services have been well recognized by all parties.
The Mainland economy has now entered a new era of economic development, with medium to high economic growth, and the economic fundamentals of other Asian economies are generally sound. This will surely provide new impetus for Hong Kong’s long-term economic growth, but it is both an opportunity and a challenge. Hong Kong’s professional services must continue to develop in order to maintain our international competitiveness.
The Government’s Report on Manpower Projection to 2027 projects that the professional services and other producer services will be the fastest growing sector in terms of manpower demand between 2017 and 2027, with an average annual growth rate of 1.4%. The future manpower demand in this sector will only increase. However, according to the latest labour force statistics released by the Census and Statistics Department in March, our labour force of 3 766 000 is 174 000 less than three years ago, and our labour force participation rate has dropped from 61% to 58%, placing us in the middle of the Asia Pacific region. The current trends of labour force in the market run contrary to the demand in our professional services sectors, thus, the demand may not be met. A shortage of talents in the professional services sectors will affect the quality of service, leading to a loss of business and a deterioration in image, making it difficult for companies to improve and innovate.
The Government is aware of the importance of professionals to economic and industry development, and the talent schemes introduced in the Policy Address have been well received so far. It is expected that these schemes will alleviate the shortage of talent to a certain extent in the short term, but they are still “treating the symptoms but not the root cause”; nurturing local professional services talents is the long-term solution. I would like to thank Mr Edmund WONG for proposing the motion on “Promoting the nurturing of local professional services talents” to ensure an adequate supply of professional services talents in Hong Kong in the future. As a member of the professional services sectors, I definitely support this motion.
Professional services actually cover a very wide range of areas and require a good grasp of the professional knowledge and skills of the relevant industries in order to meet the market demand. It is not easy for tertiary institutions to increase the proportion of degree places in their departments, which requires a large number of professional teachers. However, as the business environment is changing rapidly, the professional services are acquiring new knowledge and adopting new methods to maintain their sustainable competitiveness. The Government should review the curriculum in professional services disciplines in tertiary institutions in a timely manner and pay attention to future development needs, such as the impact and changes on the professional services caused by the current application of artificial intelligence. The Government should also encourage training institutions to consult the professional services sectors so as to design and offer new courses under the Continuing Education Fund in response to market demand.
Training of talents is not only provided by universities or tertiary institutions, in fact, many professions provide on-the-job training by their own associations or institutes. In the banking industry, for example, practitioners have to receive frequent training in different professions or continuing education. The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers, in addition to providing professional qualification certification, has all along adopted the “Institute+Enterprise” model, whereby the institute formulates talent development plans according to the needs of enterprises, and guide practitioners to obtain the required professional qualifications and enhance their work skills. The direction of training also closely follows the development of the industry and professional needs, so as to nurture high-quality talents for the banking industry and alleviate the skills gap that may arise due to business innovation and transformation.
If all associations or institutes of the professions can provide training services flexibly in response to market needs, I believe it can help working people to further their studies and become professional services talents, and together they can provide the necessary talent reserve for the future development of these sectors. Therefore, the Government should review the provision of appropriate support, such as subsidies or guidance, to these associations or institutes so that they can achieve better results.
If enterprises are willing to invest heavily in training local talents, both enterprises and employees should receive corresponding support from the Government, including tax concessions. Most of the subsidies currently available are targeted at employees and fewer are intended to encourage businesses. I hope that the Government can give more consideration to providing subsidies in this regard, so as to fill the talent gap with a multi-pronged approach.
President, I so submit.