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February 10th, 2012:

H.K. to Face Labor Shortage as Population Ages

By Marco Lui – Feb 10, 2012 1:52 PM GMT+0800Fri Feb 10 05:52:54 GMT 2012

Hong Kong will face a shortfall of 22,000 workers with higher education by 2018 as the city’s population ages, the government said in its first forecast for a shortage since it began the study in 1988.

The city, which has a total population of about 7.2 million, will need 500 people with degrees in six years’ time and will have an 8,500 surplus of employable people with a “lower education,” the city’s Labour and Welfare Bureau said in areport.

The Hong Kong government has turned to China to try to attract talent to meet a shortfall, as it faces increasing challenges to lure professionals elsewhere because of competition from cities including SingaporeAsia’s elderly population is poised to double within four decades, according to the United Nations.

“Aging population is one of the key population policy issues on which the government has been focusing its efforts,”the bureau said. “As the retirees leave the labor force, the growth in manpower supply will be hindered.”

About 17 percent of Hong Kong’s population will be at least 65 years old by 2018, compared with 13 percent last year, according to the Census and Statistics Department. The city has the lowest birth rate in a government list that included five countries, and the gap is projected to widen.

Hong Kong had granted residence to 40,933 mainland China professionals and skilled people by the end of 2010 under an admission plan started in 2003, according to the government website.

Talent Shortage

Hong Kong faces increasing challenges to lure professionals because of competition from cities such as Tokyo for quality of living. Singapore was 25th, Tokyo 46th and Hong Kong 70th in Mercer LLC’s quality of life list published in November.

Pollution, high home prices and difficulties in finding school places for expatriate children are cited as reasons foreign professionals choose not to live in Hong Kong.

The city’s schools have failed to keep up with record numbers of applications. In a survey of American Chamber of Commerce members in May last year, 63 percent said some executives are driven away by the lack of student places.

Home prices have surged about 66 percent since early 2009 on record low mortgage rates, a lack of new supply and an influx of buyers from other parts of China. The government has imposed measures to prevent the formation of an asset bubble since late 2010.

The city’s air pollution is linked to thousands of avoidable deaths, the University of Hong Kong said last year, with many due to respiratory and cardiovascular disease, according to Thach Thuan-quoc, an honorary assistant professor.

‘Education Concerns’

“Some international companies may opt for Singapore over Hong Kong because of pollution and education concerns, but Hong Kong still has an edge in its proximity to China,” Raymond So, dean of the business school at Hang Seng Management College in Hong Kong, said last month.

Demand for professionals in the financial services industry is expected to increase 2.5 percent to 253,100 by 2018, while the number of workers needed in the manufacturing sector may drop 3.1 percent, according to the government report.

Hong Kong’s fertility rate is expected to decline 5.7 percent to 983 births per 1,000 women in 2019 from 2009, the lowest in the government list that included Australia,Japan, the U.S., the United Kingdom and Sweden.

The number of Asians 60 or older will exceed 1.25 billion, or 24 percent of the population in 2050 from 10 percent in 2011, according to data compiled by the United Nations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marco Lui in Hong Kong at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hwee Ann Tan at

Asia Sentinel – Hong Kong’s “Election”

Hong Kong’s “Election”
Written by Cyril Pereira

Why is this man smiling?


As Chief Secretary Henry Tung’s candidacy fades, the oligarchs try to prop him up

A grim-faced Leung Chun-yin stared out of the front page of theSouth China Morning PostFriday morning. The Hong Kong government yesterday confirmed that 10 years ago Leung, one of two leading candidates to become the territory’s chief executive, was dropped from a jury panel selecting designs for an arts center hub because of a conflict of interest.

The company involved was disqualified when it was discovered that Leung was an advisor through his firm DTZ Holdings. The 10-year-old incident resurfaced in East Week magazine of the Sing Tao News media group. Charles Ho, the chairman of the group, went on television recently to question Leung’s credentials for position of chief executive in the territory’s upcoming quasi-elections after Leung accused the newspaper of conducting a smear campaign against him. Leung had been a board member of the Sing Tao News but resigned after the falling out.

Chief executive race slipping away?

It is starting to look intriguing on how far Hong Kong’s property and media oligarchs are willing to go to pave the way to the job of chief executive for the

former Chief Secretary for Administration Henry Tang, who was believed to be a shoo-in when he entered the race. He has made a long series of missteps, however, that make him look less than competent.

Sensing that Tang was in trouble, the tycoons closed ranks in December to declare support for his 2012 chief executive bid. The selection by the 1,200-member Election Commission is due on Mar. 25. Hong Kong’s third chief executive is scheduled to take office July 1 when the incumbent Donald Tsang’s second term expires.

Hong Kong’s big-business power brokers seem genuinely panicked about the prospect of Leung becoming the territory’s boss. They took time off from their busy schedules to rally for Henry at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre before Christmas. Li Ka-shing (chairman, Hutchison Whampoa), Allan Zeman (chairman, Ocean Park and “father of the Lan Kwai Fong entertainment district) and David KP Li (chairman, Bank of East Asia) were some of the territory’s icons who endorsed him. David K P Li has also taken on the onerous task of managing Tang’s election campaign.

Despite this formidable lineup of oligarchs, Tang has been trailing badly in public opinion polls. The Jan. 16-19 poll by Hong Kong University on a sample of 1,022 respondents recorded 29.7 percent in favor of Tang, 42.9 percent for Leung and 9.1 percent for Albert Ho, chairman of the Democratic Party. That is a gap of 13.2 percent in favor of Leung between the two front runners. It has been a similar story on other polls.

Can Leung get 150 nominations?

Despite his lead in the opinion polls, CY Leung has only about 50 of his pledged candidates in the Election Committee. How he is going to secure the requisite 150 nominations is a moot point. Both Henry Tang and the Democratic camp have in excess of 200 pledged candidates each.

The nomination window opens on Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day — and closes on Feb. 29. Tang has avoided a public debate with the other contenders so far. He says he will wait for the official nominations to be tabled before that.

Beijing has not indicated its preference between the two ‘approved’ candidates. That keeps the party faithful in limbo and anxious. They are trained to wait for the whisper. Leung is widely regarded the preferred choice among hardcore leftists in Hong Kong. They are very comfortable with him.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong is the largest pro-Beijing party in the Legislative Council and has 147 seats on the Election Committee which will select the chief executive. Party chairman Tam Yiu-chung has hinted the party may leave the vote to individual choice as there is no internal consensus to block-vote for either candidate and no pressure from Beijing to do so.

One intriguing option for Leung is to court the Democratic camp to shift their ‘surplus’ nominations to enable him to meet the 150 threshold. There are hints that feelers have been put out to that end. This poses a Machiavellian opportunity and ideological conflict for both the Democratic camp and CY Leung.

China Defines the Criteria

Director Wang Guangya, who heads the Hong Kong-Macau Affairs Office, reports directly to the State Council, China’s cabinet. On a visit to Hong Kong in June 2011 to address the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, Wang listed three criteria for the future chief executive: demonstrated love of China and Hong Kong, competence in governance and “a high degree of acceptance among the general public, who should feel that the person elected is not bad”.

That has given added symbolic significance to the public polling activity of the Hong Kong and Baptist Universities. Independent polling and disclosure of public views on government does not sit comfortably with the Communist Party. Even consumer marketing surveys in China have to obtain special permits and be approved by the authorities.

So director Wang’s listing of popularity and respect as criteria for the HKSAR chief executive is very progressive thinking for the most important job in Hong Kong – whose 7 million residents are excluded from participation.

Addressing a visiting delegation of Hong Kong university students in Beijing last year, Wang roundly criticized the timidity of the British-trained administration, stating that they “still don’t know how to be a boss and how to be a master”. He observed that they are now in charge but unable to take bold initiatives.

That was the clearest indication yet that the PRC was unimpressed by either the territory’s first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa or incumbent Donald Tsang, who between them wasted 14 years through lack of effective leadership on an array of issues like public housing, air pollution, social safety net for the poorest and relief for a middle class squeezed by inflation and runaway property prices.

But the trio now standing do not seem to be right either. Candidate Tang looks weak and ineffectual. Candidate Leung scares tycoons and ordinary folk alike. Candidate Albert Ho is unacceptable to Beijing.

Despite running record budget surpluses, the administration seems bereft of problem-solving ideas or the will to shunt the property cartel aside. The collusion between the construction lobby and the administration has created questionable infrastructure schemes to pour more concrete on a third runway, reclaim land from the sea and build long bridges and railway connections to the mainland.

The claimed job-creation effects of these schemes has little relevance for Hong Kong residents. It will only mean more mainland and Third World labor being shipped in. It will certainly enrich the local construction industry and related professional firms.

Vision, leadership and a genuine connect with society is absent and Hong Kong’s citizens are fed up. The crying needs of society seem not to excite urgent focus or action. The dramatic and sudden HK$6,000 handout to every HK resident in the 2011 budget was the high-water-mark of societal thinking in the Donald Tsang administration. It was a gesture copied from the Macau SAR where casino income was cascading into government coffers. Director Wang is right on this count.

Pollsters under fire

Both universities and the professors who supervise the surveys have come under attack from the leftist Chinese language newspapers Ta Kung Pau, Wen Wei Pau and the English language China Daily.

Dr Zhao Xinshu of Baptist University released his survey showing Tang reducing Leung’s lead before the full sampling data was processed. It was premature and academically unsound. Dr Zhao quit on 6 Feb, the day the Baptist University released its 12 page investigation report.

The head of Baptist University has resisted further investigations, warning of unleashing “white terror” a loaded reference to the worst excesses of the Cultural Revolution. There seems to be serious concern about academic freedoms eroding in HK.

Dr Robert Chung stands his ground against “Cultural Revolution-style” criticism. He has invited the left wing newspapers and other critics to a dialogue to answer any question on his survey methodology. Chung says so far no one from the Liaison Office, the mainland press or the university authorities have contacted him.

Meanwhile, Chung has devised a ‘civic referendum’ to enable members of the public to indicate their preferred CE candidate on 23 March, two days before the 25 March Election Committee voting. He says eligible voters will be able to access a polling station and participate online and through mobile phones. He would not seek funding from the university, the HK government or political parties. He hopes the HK$500,000 needed for this project will come from public donations.

Local banker donates smog monitor to green group

SCMP – Laisee

10 Feb 2012

While the government continues to stonewall local pressure groups’ demands to improve air, others within the community are voting with their feet. Take Alex Turnbull, son of the prominent Australian politician Malcolm Turnbull. He’s an investment banker and has lived in Hong Kong for six years, but found the city’s air was making him sick. He’s had asthma since he was a child so is acutely aware of the air quality here and its impact. He’s a rower and within a week of being in Hong Kong noticed his slower performance. He’s asked his company to transfer him to Singapore where the air is cleaner and will be leaving in a couple of months with his fiancee. But he was struck by the impact that the US embassy in Beijing had when it installed a device for measuring the air quality on its roof and started publishing the results on its website.

The popular indignation at the disparity between official air-quality figures provided by the government and those of the US embassy went some way towards pushing the central government to announce tighter air quality objectives. Turnbull feels so strongly about the issue that he has donated a similar high-quality mobile DustTrak to Hong Kong’s Clear the Air group. “My view is that by donating these instruments, Clear the Air can collect the data and show the public how bad the air is and make a stronger case to the government – it’s killing people.”

He says he’s surprised that given the extent of the charitable activities by New World Group, which owns the Citybus bus company, it can’t come up with the roughly US$100 million he calculates it would take to get the 200 or so buses with Euro I to Euro III engines off the road. “It’s almost worth starting a charity to pay off that amount,” he says. Clear the Air chairman Jim Middleton says his group will start measuring PM2.5 particles in Hong Kong’s air within a month or so and will publish the results on its website.