Doctors, dentists, builders and legal professionals from overseas and mainland China will be able to obtain speedy Hong Kong work permits, after the government announced an expansion to the city’s talent list on Tuesday.

With immediate effect, the list expanded from 13 professions to 51, adding two new industry segments – healthcare services and development and construction, amid an exodus of residents and talent.

nurses in public hospital Hong Kong
The talent list adds two new industry segments of healthcare services and development and construction. File Photo: Kyle Lam/ HKFP.

New professions include 13 jobs under health care services, 11 under development and construction, I.T. experts – such as artificial intelligence specialists – as well as legal professionals, and film talent from creative industries, according to Labour and Welfare Bureau.

“The main thrust of our manpower policy is nurturing local talent, complemented by attracting outside talent, with a view to enriching the talent pool of Hong Kong and meeting our social and economic development needs,” a government spokesperson said. “The expanded list helps us attract more high-quality talent supporting the high-quality economic and social development of Hong Kong.”

Chris Sun, head of the manpower bureau, told reporters on Tuesday that the registration procedures for professionals, such as legal and medical workers, will remain the same.

Visa within four weeks

The list was introduced by the government in 2018 to attract talent under three work permit schemes, including the General Employment Policy (GEP), the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP) and the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS).

For employers hiring under the first two schemes, they can be exempt from proving that the vacancies cannot be filled in the local market. Processing time will thus be shortened to within four weeks, according to HK01 citing a source familiar with the policy.

Central Business Cityview
File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

QMAS, meanwhile, adopts points-based tests to select high-scoring applicants. Those who fall into the talent list will receive 30 points, making it easier to obtain a visa.

‘Snatching’ talent

Hong Kong has seen a brain drain across several industries amid an exodus of residents and expats. In March, Lo Chung-mau, secretary of the Health Bureau, told lawmakers that 1,247 full-time doctors had left their positions during the past three years, with only 191 of them retiring.

Several building and construction industry roles will see shortages in the coming five years, the Construction Industry Council revealed in their Manpower Forecast for Hong Kong Construction Industry report released in February.

By 2027, the industry is predicted to see a shortage of 6,000-6,500 professionals, whilst a shortfall of 35,000 – 40,000 experienced and semi-experienced workers is expected.

Hong Kong Govt press meeting on competing for talents
Top officials in Hong Kong meet the press on December 23 to introduce their plans to attract overseas talents and companies. File Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Executive chief John Lee has vowed to “snatch” non-local talent, adding 35,000 workers each year.

Tim Pang, a social worker and medical advocate at the Society for Community Organization, told HKFP on Wednesday that he does not anticipate quick changes following the launch of the expanded talent list in the healthcare sector. He said that, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals would still need to pass difficult exams or seek special or limited registrations.

“For job positions which don’t require professional certificates, I think the changes will be coming soon. Yet, for professions that involve local registrations, manpower shortages in these sectors will be difficult to fill in the near future,” he said.

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