Speech by PSLW at 28th inauguration ceremony of Hong Kong Federation of Business Students (English only)

Following is the speech by the Permanent Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Paul Tang, at 28th inauguration ceremony of Hong Kong Federation of Business Students today (April 13):

Honourable Mrs Sophie Leung, Mr Samuel Yung, distinguished guests, students, ladies and gentlemen,



Good Evening. I am greatly honoured to be invited to the Inauguration Ceremony of the 2012 - 2013 Session of Hong Kong Federation of Business Students and to address such a prominent audience. First of all, I would like to extend my congratulations to the new Executive Committee. Your Federation has a large membership of over 10 000 members coming from the nine local universities. No doubt, you have an important role to play in cultivating a bigger pool of talents in business and management to serve Hong Kong's sustained growth, as well as providing your members with the most up-to-date market information.

Sharing the latest information is precisely the purpose of my presence here this evening. I hope my presentation on "Hong Kong's Future Manpower Requirements" will throw some light on your career planning and business endeavours.

Importance of a resilient workforce to Hong Kong

Let me start by underscoring that Hong Kong's economic growth relies heavily on its human resources as it lacks other natural resources. It is crucial for us to maintain a sustainable manpower supply. We witnessed an extraordinary period of economic volatility in the past few years when Hong Kong was hit by the global financial tsunami. But thanks to our resilient and versatile workforce, as well as our sound economic system and policies, Hong Kong has staged a swift recovery since the second half of 2009. The unemployment rate, for instance, has fallen from the peak of 5.5% in June - August 2009 to 3.4% in December 2011 - January 2012.

Manpower planning

To nurture our workforce that has proven capability in rising up to the challenges of the increasingly globalised and knowledge-based economy, the Education Bureau and various universities and institutions have invested heavily in the education system and the promotion of lifelong learning. The Labour and Welfare Bureau, working closely with the Employees Retraining Board, has also provided the lower-skilled workers with subsidised vocational training and retraining.

Government bureaux and departments as well as other stakeholders need market data in conducting related policy reviews and sectoral manpower planning. For this purpose, the Administration and other organisations have been undertaking various cross-sector and sectoral studies. Among others, the Vocational Training Council carries out regular manpower surveys to forecast the short-term manpower requirements of specific industries. The Government also takes forward a cross-sector study with a longer projection timeframe. This study, namely, the Manpower Projection, assesses at the macro level from time to time the broad trends in the future manpower supply and requirement.

Manpower requirement with better education profile by 2018

The Government has recently released the findings of the latest round of the Manpower Projection, which has a projection timeframe of 2010 to 2018. Let me share with you the projected manpower requirements of our economy as a whole as well as those of selected sectors with higher growth.

We project the total manpower requirement of our economy to increase at an average annual rate of 1.1% from 3.28 million in 2010 to 3.60 million in 2018. That translates into an average of 40 000 additional jobs annually in the next few years.

In tandem with the transformation of Hong Kong into a knowledge-based, high value-added economy, the future manpower requirement is projected to be tilted towards the higher-skilled, more-educated workers. We anticipate the manpower requirements for the workers with education at first degree and postgraduate levels to grow significantly at the average annual rates of 3.7% and 5.5% respectively in the coming years up to 2018.

With the Government's efforts in offering ample and multiple progression pathways for students, we project that this notable growth in manpower requirement is going to be met generally by the growth in manpower supply. We forecast a more or less balanced manpower by 2018 at the level of first degree and above, with only a slight deficit of 500.

The occupation groups of Managers and administrators, Professionals as well as Associate professionals generally require better-educated workers. We expect them to grow appreciably at average annual rates ranging from 1.9% to 2.9%. These growth rates are higher than the overall growth rate of 1.1% for Hong Kong's overall manpower requirement.

The above projections have revealed two important observations. First, the pursuit of lifelong learning is a good investment, as the job opportunities requiring better education are projected to expand considerably in the coming years. Secondly, there will continue to be upward mobility in the labour market, as the proportion of the higher-skilled and better-educated workers grow bigger.

Manpower requirements of the strategic sectors

The manpower requirements of the four pillar industries, namely Financial services, Trading and logistics, Professional services as well as Tourism, are expected to grow at 1.4% on average a year during the period from 2010 to 2018. Those of the six industries, namely Education services, Medical services, Testing and certification services, Environmental industries, Innovation and technology as well as Cultural and creative industries, are projected to grow at an annual average rate of 2.8% in the next few years. You will see that the future manpower requirements of both the four pillar industries and the six industries are anticipated to grow faster generally than that of the economy as a whole.

Within the four pillar industries, the manpower requirements of Tourism, Financial services and Professional services are projected to grow considerably at an annual average rate of 2.9%, 2.5% and 2.3% respectively (Note 1). As regards the six industries, the top three will be Innovation and technology, Education services and Environmental industries, with each of them growing significantly at an average annual rate of 4.5%, 4.4% and 4.3% respectively (Note 2).

Career planning and concluding remarks

The fast-growing sectors often offer more job opportunities. And I am sure that most of you, as university students, will be delighted to learn about the high demand for the better-educated workers in the next few years. But do expect keen competition in the employment market, particularly as you note the corresponding growth in the related supply of manpower. Nonetheless, competition is not fearful. You excel when you upgrade your skills and consolidate your strengths while you compete. Be knowledgeable and be prepared to take on challenges. With this attitude in mind, you will succeed.

While you should follow your heart in deciding the industry you want to start with, there are indeed a wide range of reference materials to facilitate your planning. As you ponder on your career development, do look towards different information sources. And don't be shy in asking the university career centres and your parents for advice.

In closing, I hope the projection findings I have shared will offer you some clues in charting your career roadmap. I wish you all success in your future endeavours.

Thank you.

Note 1: The manpower requirement of the Trading and logistics sector is projected to grow at 0.3% annually.

Note 2: The manpower requirements of Medical services, Testing & certification services, and Cultural & creative industries are projected to grow at 3.0%, 2.3% and 1.6% a year respectively.

Ends/Wednesday, April 13, 2012