21 August 2019
Engineer shortage is a growing concern for many construction firms in Hong Kong. Photo: Bloomberg
Engineer shortage is a growing concern for many construction firms in Hong Kong. Photo: Bloomberg

Construction firms grapple with severe engineer shortage

Hong Kong’s construction-related businesses are suffering from a worsening shortage of engineers as entities in the mainland and Macau compete for top talent.

The situation has resulted in rising construction costs as smaller contractors, for whom a 20-30 percent attrition rate for engineers is common even after double-digit pay hikes and bonus offers of four-month pay, have to decline some orders and raise contract prices, Singtao Daily noted Tuesday.

Raymond Chan Kin-sek, president of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE), was quoted as saying that the city has seen the basic construction expenditure jump to HK$70.8 billion (US$9.13 billion) this year from HK$20 billion in 2003, and that it is seen climbing further to HK$100 billion.

He said the shortage comes as the government plans to build public homes and conduct maintenance for old buildings on one hand, while private firms keep expanding business on the other. Many firms are forced to give up bidding for projects as they are shorthanded, he said, adding that it makes it easier for the remaining bidders to raise prices.

According to Chan, Hong Kong is now in desperate need of engineers specializing in civil engineering, structure and construction management. However, some local firms, such as Hong Kong & China Gas (00003.HK), have to move their engineers to the mainland for their numerous contracts there. HKIE estimates there are hundreds of local engineers now working in the mainland, on top of those working in Macau.

Currently Hong Kong’s civil engineers are mainly groomed by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. New graduates from those institutes are said to number about 70, 120 and 160 respectively each year, considerably less than the market demand.

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