Work permits granted to expatriates working in Hong Kong continue to decline as it battles with others within the region for talents. Based on data from the Immigration Department, the total number of work permit holders under the General Employment Policy has dropped from over 42,000 in 2019 to just 9,502 this year (between Jan-Sept).

The biggest reductions came from Japan, the US, and the United Kingdom (Japan: 4,019 in 2019 to 920 in 2022; US: 4,071 to 667; and UK: 5,280 to 838).

Similarly, entry into Hong Kong under the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals also fell from 14,053 in 2019 to 9,065 in 2021.

The South China Morning Post quoted a response from Gary Ng Cheuk-yan, a senior economist for Asia-Pacific at Natixis Corporate and Investment Bank, who said, “Everything is relative. The falling working visa approval shows Hong Kong is losing its attractiveness to foreign talent and firms have rebased regional roles to other Asian cities.”

The latest numbers are in direct contrast to the number of foreign students who come to the city to continue their studies. In 2019, 41,895 people entered Hong Kong as students and that number rose to 43,732 for last year.

However, due to the rising cost of living, many students have decided to go back to their respective countries and not continue with finding employment on the island.


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