Friday, 10 February 2012

Fact of the Day: Labour Shortage Projections

Looks like Hong Kong is going to experience a labour shortage by 2018 because of an ageing population.

This is according to a government manpower study that started in 1988 and for the first time is forecasting not enough workers.

With baby boomers gradually retiring, there will be some 14,000 jobs to be filled over the next six years by either foreign or mainland graduates or new immigrants.

The crux of the problem is the city's low birth rate, which demography expert Paul Yiip Siu-fai says needs to double to keep the economy growing at the current rate by 2018.

"Now on average 1.04 children are born to Hong Kong woman. We need to raise that ratio to 2.1 to meet the demand," he said.

If children born here to non-Hong Kong residents were also included in the calculation, the average birth rate jumps to 1.5 from 1.04.

What's also interesting is the shortage will be felt unevenly across the workforce, as there is a mismatch between education and economic restructuring.

Those with the lowest education will have a manpower surplus of 8,500 by 2018. But for middle and secondary school level, there will be a labour shortage of 22,000. For those with higher education, the shortage will be around 500 as Hong Kong moves towards a knowledge-based economy.

The projections were based on the data from the 2010 and early 2011 Statistics and Census Department.

By 2018, Hong Kong will have 300,000 baby boomers who will have retired. It is expected vacancies will not be filled as the city's birth rate has been plunging since the 1970s.

"The shortage of 14,000 workers may not sound huge. But we do have to pay attention to it because it will be the first time that we will experience such a problem," said a spokesman from the Labour and Welfare Bureau.

These are interesting projections. At the same time I wonder who is going to be cleaning up after us and doing menial jobs like collecting garbage, cleaning toilets and clearing tables that no one wants to do. Those jobs won't be mechanized anytime soon.

So while Hong Kong is shifting towards a more knowledge-based economy, we still need to eat, buy things and clean up.

Did the demographers think of that too?

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