Robert Half: Shortage of crucial skills could impede growth of HK tech sector

Hong Kong workers fear their jobs are at risk in the digital economy (Image ALotOfPeople / iStockPhoto)
The HKSAR government's I&T investment plan is expected to stimulate growth in IT jobs and salaries (Image ALotOfPeople / iStockPhoto)

The HKSAR government’s HK$50 billion (US$6.4 billion) investment allocated to promote innovation and technology (I&T) development in the 2018-19 Budget is being praised by local IT employers and is expected to create more jobs in the sector as well as an increase in average salaries for IT professionals.

However, new research independently commissioned by specialist recruiter Robert Half reveals IT leaders are concerned a shortage in crucial skills could impede future sector growth.

I&T investment will have positive impact on the employment market

The survey of 75 Hong Kong CIOs indicates the proposal to invest HK$50 billion in supporting I&T development is set to have a positive impact on the IT employment market. Local IT professionals can rejoice as almost half (48%) of CIOs believe the investment will lead to an increase in average salaries and more than four in 10 (43%) expect an increase in jobs in the sector. 

Other positive impacts of the investment include an increase in productivity (32%), an increase in innovation (21%) and an increase in the attractiveness of a career in IT (20%) – which can only serve as positive reinforcement for local IT employers.

Skills shortage may restrict the development in the IT sector

Despite the positive impact of the government’s I&T investment, the survey results also indicate the current skills shortage within Hong Kong’s IT sector may restrict growth. Nearly all (96%) CIOs say they are concerned the existing IT talent pool does not have the necessary skills to keep up with future investment and expansion in the IT sector.

Incidentally, compared to five years ago, more than nine in 10 (92%) CIOs say it is more challenging to source qualified IT professionals today, while 88% say it is also more challenging to attract them once found.

Adam Johnston, managing director of Robert Half Hong Kong commented that: "this year’s annual Budget is expected to significantly boost Hong Kong’s IT sector and deliver positive long-term results for the Hong Kong economy as a whole. Investment in I&T is incredibly important to start-ups and businesses of all sizes who need to develop new cutting-edge ideas and innovative products as Hong Kong seeks to shape a more competitive, technology-enabled economy in the global landscape.”

To date, he said, the current IT skills shortage has led to a war for talent among Hong Kong companies as they endeavor to secure the best IT talent to stay competitive and innovative. "When hiring, companies should therefore act fast once they have found the right talent or risk losing them to the competition.”

“The government, business community and educational institutions must come together to find ways to tackle the skills shortage, such as increasing the influx of local candidates, making it less challenging to bring in foreign talent and marketing IT as an attractive career path. Local businesses also need to focus more on professional development and training of existing staff to fill crucial skill gaps within their own organization. Increased government investment within the IT sector will no doubt go a long way in facilitating such initiatives.”

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