Hong Kong’s labour force has lost around 116,600 people aged 18 to 39 over the past two years, government documents have revealed.

Numbers consolidated by the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau showed that there were almost 1.42 million people aged 18 to 39 in work in the second quarter of 2020, a number that fell to about 1.30 in the same period in 2022.

central finance business people population economy employment
Photo: GovHK.

The documents were provided in response to questions raised by lawmaker Luk Chung-hung of the Federation of Trade Unions about the wastage of the city’s young labour force in a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday.

In his Policy Address, Chief Executive John Lee said the local workforce shrank by about 140,000 people over the past two years, touting the need to attract talent from different parts of the world. Prior to this, the administration repeatedly denied there had been an exodus of local talent.

Youth poverty problem

Luk also asked for information about young people living in poverty in different districts.

Government data showed that Yuen Long district had the most serious youth poverty problem, with 8,900 people aged 18 to 39 being regarded as “poor.” Tuen Mun and Sha Tin districts followed closely with 7,200 and 7,000, respectively.

The Home and Youth Affairs Bureau said multiple programmes were in place to help alleviate the problem. More than HK$5 billion in total had been allocated to about 50 non-governmental organisations between 2020 and 2022 to provide welfare services to young people.

Relocate to Greater Bay Area

The government also cited a survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department, which showed that more than 44 per cent of people aged between 15 and 24 and more than 36 per cent of those aged between 25 and 34 were “very interested/quite interested” in working or operating a business in Greater Bay Area cities in the future.

greater bay area
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

More than 20 per cent of respondents from the two age groups also expressed interest in staying in the Greater Bay Area in the future, with “staying” includes living, working and studying.

The GBA consists of Hong Kong, Macau and nine major cities in Guangdong province, and aims to further deepen the cooperation between the mainland and the two special administrative regions. The area is expected to support China’s technology innovation and economic development.

Hong Kong officials have long encouraged people in Hong Kong to travel across the border for more education and job opportunities, touting closer ties between the cities in the Greater Bay Area.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.