The Hong Kong government pledged Friday to step up efforts to attract talented workers, after a study showed the Chinese territory is facing a labour shortage due to its ageing population.
The government study forecast a manpower shortfall of 14,000 by 2018, with the workforce growing at a slow annual rate of 0.6 per cent, just over half the pace required to maintain an adequate pool of workers.
Hong Kong would need a labour force of 3.6 million in six years to meet demand, it added.
"The government has put in place a host of measures to attract and nurture talents and upgrade the skills of our workforce in order to ensure an adequate manpower supply," Labour and Welfare Secretary Matthew Cheung said.
The study showed the labour shortage would not be evenly spread across the workforce.
People with upper-secondary and sub-degree qualifications would be in shortest supply, but there would be a surplus of low-skilled workers.
"It is noteworthy that the growth in both the manpower requirement and supply is projected to tilt towards workers with higher education qualifications," Cheung told the Employers' Federation in a speech.
"This is in line with Hong Kong's continued transformation into a knowledge-based economy."
Finance Secretary John Tsang warned this month that Hong Kong's economy could shrink in the first quarter of 2012 due to weak export markets, before rebounding to post growth of 1.0-3.0 per cent over the year.
Tsang said headwinds in Europe and the United States meant the southern Chinese banking and trade centre would "inevitably" experience lower growth than the average of the past decade.
The semi-autonomous city's economy contracted in the second quarter of 2011 before returning to positive territory in the third quarter.