It is well known that Hong Kong is not rich in natural resources other than having a deep-water harbour. The extraordinary achievements of the Hong Kong economy in the past few decades are to a great extent due to its productive and good quality human resources.
Human resources are very heterogeneous in background. The three million people in the labour force differ vastly in terms of their knowledge, skills, job preferences and aspirations. The positions offered by firms and industries also differ widely regarding job duties, compensations, work environments and career paths. It is obvious that mismatch of workers and jobs can be quite detrimental to the economic well being of society. In a free market economy, a major function of the labour market is to allocate human resources efficiently through the "invisible hand".
The labour market is also instrumental in directly or indirectly encouraging investment in human capital and enhancing the quality of human resources. These include on-the-job training, the acquisition of work experience, and the provision of incentives for further schooling and education. The outstanding performance of the Hong Kong economy is clear evidence that its labour market has been functioning well.
It is remarkable that the labour market has weathered many drastic shocks and extensive changes in the past decades, including massive immigration and emigration, rapid population growth, mass education, rising female participation, labour import, labour legislation, business cycles and structural transformation. It is quite fortunate that the labour market has been flexible enough and adjusting effectively so that it has contributed to Hong Kong's impressive economic growth despite all these disturbances.
How has the Hong Kong labour market developed over these turbulent years? How has it successfully dealt with the above challenges? What are the likely difficulties and important issues in the foreseeable future? What appropriate policies should be adopted by the government? These are the main questions addressed in this book.
The authors of this book, Dr. Wing Suen and Dr. William Chan, are both long time researchers in the field of labour economics. Using census and survey data, they have also carried out empirical research on various aspects of the labour market. Their discussion and analysis of the Hong Kong labour market in the dynamic economy of Hong Kong are of high standards and authoritative.
The authors investigate in detail the impacts on the labour market of female participation, immigration, and sectoral shifts. Each of these separate investigations indicates that the market has functioned efficiently. They also discuss issues that have lately been publicly debated, including labour retraining, labour import, immigration, and employment legislation.
The labour market has important implications to the well being of every individual employer and employee, as well as to the economy as a whole. As Hong Kong enters a new stage as a Special Administrative Region of China, the developments and policies on the labour market are naturally of great public concern. This book should become a standard reference on the subject.
Y. F. Luk
School of Economics and Finance
The University of Hong Kong