The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) said recently it proposed four suggestions on how Hong Kong can improve employment in a letter to Carrie Lam, the SAR’s Chief Executive.
“While Hong Kong’s economy and unemployment are yet to recover from the pandemic, the efforts of the Hong Kong SAR Government in addressing this are much welcomed,” said Paulus Chau, Associate Director, Hong Kong and Emerging markets. “There is an opportunity to do more to help prepare the economy for the next expansion by encouraging and facilitating businesses to invest in technology and people as well as professionals to continue skill and knowledge development”.
The four suggestions of the CIMA are as follows:
Introduce a plan to support employment and adaption of new technology
One of the mechanisms that many businesses turn to when it comes to cost reduction is increased mechanisation and automation.
While this puts lower skilled jobs at risk, the government could introduce a plan across all sectors to support employment and businesses’ adoption of new and emerging technologies in order to become more profitable and productive.
While the cost of introducing new technology and processes is usual upfront and can be very high, the government might support small businesses in terms of these upfront costs.
For instance, the government could provide tax relief to help SMEs adopt new technologies such as AI, automation, cloud computing, and cybersecurity protection.
Introduce Skilled and Professional Apprenticeships
The government might want to look to apprenticeship and traineeship schemes run by economies similar to Hong Kong’s, such as the UK and the US.
In these countries, apprenticeships and/or traineeships are beyond traditional trade apprenticeships and have been redesigned to include occupations and professions.
They have been proved a valuable resource for both companies as well school leavers and graduates. The government should consider the introduction of such a programme that takes into account of the market, economic and education system and structures in Hong Kong.
Reskilling existing staff
Existing staff will need to reskill themselves in order to remain competitive and employable in the face of the changes brought by technology and artificial intelligence.
To promote staff and job retention we would suggest the government might want to introduce tax incentives for companies that are retaining and investing in skills development. This could be through micro-credentialling.
This could also be achieved is by creating a Lifetime Skills Fund/Guarantee that post-graduation Hong Kong residents can use while they are of working age to fund retraining and upskilling.
In addition, this could be funded by either tax breaks for employees or via a loan system where employees who decide to use the fund have a top-up on their taxes to pay back their skill development spending.
Another option would be the modification of the existing Continuous Education Fund to allow 100% reimbursement through the scheme.
Support for women
While women have been disproportionately harder hit by the economic impacts of the pandemic, the government might consider increased incentives to companies that employ and re/upskill female employees. Incentives for science, technology and finance professions where there’s a shortage of senior female executives would make a huge difference.