The Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management said on Thursday that it welcomed government initiatives to bridge the talent gap, with one of its executives saying Hong Kong is in the grip of a "war for talent" between different industries.
Roy Ying, co-chair of the institute's advocacy and policy research committee, told RTHK's Hong Kong Today programme that several sectors were facing severe labour shortages. He was commenting after the government said it was considering importing builders and transport workers.
However Ying said officials should ensure that the recruitment does not go on indefinitely and that the number of workers involved is limited. He also wants officials to work to improve the skills of local workers.
"The institute wants to see some checks and balance such as a sunset measure, a quota system, minimisation of social impact and most importantly a commitment to upskill the existing workforce in Hong Kong," he told RTHK's Samantha Butler.
"These are all checks and balances to make sure that the people of Hong Kong, their job security and employment opportunities are not threatened.
"These are the initial thoughts of the institute. Of course we'd like to see more details and have more informed discussion."
Ying said his discussions with major employers show that they do have "major problems", giving the example of a ground handling agent at the airport who had 2,100 staff before the pandemic. The number fell to 800 while travel restrictions were in place, and the agent is now facing having to recruit up to 1,200 staff in four months.
"If I can quote what he said to me last night, he said: 'we are going to consider just about anyone who can walk in a straight line'," Ying added.
Speaking in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun said the schemes for construction and transport workers could mirror an existing arrangement for staff in the care sector.
The plan, which will be introduced in June, allows all care homes to recruit staff outside the SAR to tackle a manpower crunch in the industry.