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Malaysia

Why Hong Kong is targeting Malaysian talent to diversify its workforce

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  • Hong Kong is focusing on recruiting Malaysian talent to diversify its workforce, leveraging their multilingual skills and cultural adaptability.
  • The Top Talent Pass Scheme has been instrumental in attracting foreign professionals, with a new emphasis on including talents from Malaysia and Europe.
  • Addressing cultural needs, such as increasing halal food options, is crucial for attracting and retaining Malaysian professionals in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is making a strategic move to diversify its workforce by actively recruiting talent from Malaysia. This initiative is part of a broader effort to supplement the city’s labor market with skilled professionals from Southeast Asia and Europe. The Hong Kong government recognizes the unique advantages that Malaysian professionals bring, particularly their multilingual capabilities and cultural adaptability.

According to Chris Sun, Hong Kong's Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Malaysians are not only fluent in English but many also speak Cantonese and Mandarin, which are crucial for integrating into the local community. "Malaysians are fluent in English, and many also speak fluent Cantonese and Mandarin," Sun stated, emphasizing the ease with which Malaysian talents can adapt to Hong Kong's environment. This linguistic proficiency is expected to help Hong Kong forge stronger connections with the Southeast Asian market, enhancing its economic and cultural ties.

The Top Talent Pass Scheme, introduced in December 2022, has been a significant driver in attracting foreign professionals to Hong Kong. This scheme offers a two-year visa to applicants who have earned at least HK$2.5 million in the past year or are graduates from nearly 200 of the world’s top universities. While the majority of the 59,000 non-local professionals brought to the city under this scheme have been from mainland China, the Hong Kong government is now focusing on diversifying this pool by including more talents from Malaysia and Europe.

The Malaysian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Macau has praised this initiative, noting that the simplified visa procedures have already benefited some Malaysian professionals. "The government's focus on talent recruitment in Malaysia reflects its commitment to fostering a diversified and skilled workforce," said the chamber. They also highlighted the importance of nurturing greater cultural sensitivity and ensuring more access to halal goods to attract more Malaysian talents, including Muslims.

One such professional, Yee Lisan, a regional marketing manager at a music label, relocated to Hong Kong in April 2021. She appreciates the quality of life in Hong Kong, particularly the convenience of accessing beaches, hills, and the city within a short time. However, she pointed out the limited halal food options, which can be a challenge for Muslim visitors and residents. In response, Hong Kong officials have been working to increase the availability of halal food across the city to attract more visitors and professionals from Muslim-majority regions.

Despite these efforts, there are concerns about the impact of imported labor on local employment. Lawmakers have raised issues about the lack of diversity in Hong Kong’s imported labor force, with mainland Chinese workers making up a significant portion. However, Sun urged lawmakers to look beyond nationalities, noting that many younger candidates from the top talent scheme are graduates from US universities, which adds to the diversity.

Local workers in some sectors, particularly those in lower-educated segments, feel threatened by the influx of foreign labor. For instance, unions representing residential care home workers and bus service operators have expressed concerns about job security. However, experts like Professor Terence Chong from the Chinese University of Hong Kong argue that importing labor is essential to fill vacant job roles that locals are unwilling to take, ultimately benefiting the economy.

Hong Kong's initiative to recruit Malaysian talent is a strategic move to diversify and strengthen its workforce. By addressing cultural needs and leveraging the skills of multilingual professionals, Hong Kong aims to create a more inclusive and dynamic labor market that can drive its economic growth.

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