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Hong Kong Proposes A New Visa Scheme To Attract Skilled Talent

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Hong Kong’s leader has announced a new visa scheme to attract global talent, as the city urges to resolve its undermining status as an international financial center.

Chief Executive John Lee said, “the new Top Talent Pass Scheme will allow those earning an annual salary of 2.5 million Hong Kong dollars ($318,472) or more and graduates of the world’s top universities to work or pursue opportunities in the city for two years.”

The city’s workforce has been reduced to 140,000 people over the last two years, Lee said.

Proactive measures to recruit professionals

In a maiden policy address on Wednesday, Lee said, “We must be more proactive and aggressive in competing for enterprises and competing for talent. Apart from actively nurturing and retaining local talent, the government will proactively trawl the world for talent.”

Lee unveiled a range of proposals including tax rebates and measures for recruiting foreigners to increase competition after coronavirus norms have injured the economy and detracted professionals.

Foreigners buying new homes will receive a partial refund of the stamp duty- a tax levied on property purchases- on the first residential property they buy as permanent residents.

The government will introduce methods for companies to hire professional foreigners, create a task force to execute recruitment strategies, and aid newcomers, he said.

Ivan Choy, a Chinese University political scientist mentioned that Lee’s efforts are aimed at hiring foreign workers and winning the public’s trust by supporting livelihoods. 

Choy said, “But such measures are unlikely to boost his popularity since policies like the new visa scheme focus on attracting new, foreign talent instead of retaining local talent.”

Lee, a former security chief, was chosen by China to lead Hong Kong. He has plans to also retain local professionals, emphasizing on the city’s education efforts and various subsidies for helping workers to achieve their career goals.

Efforts to cut through high competition

Lee is under a responsibility of structuring Hong Kong as a biggest business and financial hub as local talents are leaving the city in search for better opportunities in countries like Singapore and Dubai. So, he aims to recruit 35,000 skilled workers in Hong Kong each year.

As per government statistics, by mid-2022, the city’s population reduced to 1.6% from the previous year by 113,200 residents in August. 

Singapore is ahead of Hong Kong in position for global financial centers last month. In August, a new visa scheme was announced that permitted high-earning foreign talent to work for multiple employers at a time. 

Simon Lee, an honorary institute fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Asia-Pacific Institute of Business, said, “Despite Hong Kong’s new talent drive, Singapore still has some advantages over Hong Kong due to its location in Southeast Asia, where some economies are growing quickly.”

He said, “Working in a place that relies on China could pose some ‘career risks’ for skilled workers as it’s economy slows. Skilled workers from mainland China also may just treat Hong Kong as a stepping stone for their careers.”

Lee also addressed the issue of shortage of housing and promised to provide land to build 72,000 private residential apartments in the next five years.

“The government would strengthen the legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security as the city prepares to enact its security law. Such efforts were shelved in 2003 after fears about a loss of freedoms sparked massive protests”, Lee said.

“Laws and regulations will be introduced regarding crowdfunding activities and improve cybersecurity,” he continued. 

Measures to deal with the Coronavirus

Hong Kong will proactively deal with coronavirus and make efforts to reduce the number of cases and deaths, according to Lee. Additionally, it aims to provide protection to those exposed to high risks of coronavirus.

Though Hong Kong is not seeking compulsory lockdowns, people will be allowed to enter places such as restaurants and museums only after testing negative for coronavirus continues three days before arrival. 

Local authorities believe that the measures taken formulate a balance between international travel and controlling new cases. While critics believe lengthy procedures for Covid-19 testing, restrict people from freely eating and exploring places in the city. 

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