20th September 2023 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong has rolled out various initiatives to attract talent as it grapples with an exodus of workers. Mainland Chinese have responded enthusiastically, making up over 90% of scheme participants. While this influx helps fill gaps, over-reliance on one source market raises concerns about diminished diversity. Maintaining Hong Kong’s vibrancy requires drawing talent from a broad mix of countries.

Since full reopening in February, tens of thousands of mainland professionals have arrived on work visas and schemes like the Top Talent Pass. This has exceeded flows in pre-pandemic 2018, whereas Western expats have been slow to return.

According to official data, mainland Chinese individuals constitute the vast majority of applicants and approved candidates for various schemes allowing relocation to Hong Kong this year.

In the period from January to July, approximately 47,000 professionals from mainland China were granted work visas through five different schemes. This number already surpasses the total of 23,000 approvals for the entire year of 2018.

The Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals, which received 10,167 approvals in the first seven months of this year, is projected to exceed the 13,768 approvals it received in 2018. The Top Talent Pass Scheme, introduced in December of the previous year, attracts individuals earning at least HK$2.5 million annually or graduates from one of the world’s top 100 universities. As of the end of June, this scheme had garnered 25,961 successful main applicants, with 95 percent originating from mainland China.

Many newcomers are highly educated, including overseas graduates. And rather than just nearby Guangdong, they hail from farther flung provinces and lack local connections. Thus the mainland Chinese community is changing, forming its own social circles rather than necessarily integrating with locals.

The challenge is getting mainlanders to engage with Hong Kong society. The government must encourage integration and ease locals’ job competition fears. Because while mainland talent fills shortages, diversity is also crucial.

Previous Mainland waves contained Cantonese speakers with local ties who assimilated more easily. The onus now falls on new arrivals to proactively connect with Hong Kong. Initiatives to foster integration and social cohesion are essential.

Hong Kong must attract international talent to maintain its global hub status. Relying too heavily on one nationality risks eroding the diversity and creativity underpinning the city’s competitiveness.

Western expats provide management expertise, niche technical skills and international connections. And diverse cultures encourage innovation and fresh thinking. A multiplicity of talent sources is key to a thriving business environment.

Moreover, global exposure and exchange of ideas nurture local talent. Interacting with international and Mainland professionals expands perspectives and opportunities for Hong Kong youth. A varied talent pool strengthens local capabilities.

No doubt Mainland arrivals are filling important gaps. But excessive concentration from a single market risks cultural homogenisation and intellectual conformity. Sustaining Hong Kong’s edge requires openness to talent from across the world.

Rather than expedient shortcuts, the long-term focus should be holistic nurturing of homegrown talent. Improving education quality and opportunity will equip local youth with skills and global mindsets. This organic cultivation of talent is essential for enduring competitiveness.

In sum, Hong Kong must balance importing Mainland talent to address immediate needs with longer-term human capital development. While mainland arrivals offer relief, diverse talent flows are indispensable for dynamism. Alongside targeted schemes, broadbased education reform remains key to lasting talent enrichment.