26 October 2016
Taiwan plans to publicise a new scheme to attract entrepreneurs and innovators of Hong Kong and Macau to emigrate to the island. Photo: Bloomberg
Taiwan plans to publicise a new scheme to attract entrepreneurs and innovators of Hong Kong and Macau to emigrate to the island. Photo: Bloomberg

Taiwan lures Hong Kong, Macau talent with new migrant scheme

Taiwan plans to send people to Hong Kong and Macau next month to publicise a new scheme to attract entrepreneurs and innovators to emigrate to the island.

On June 11, the Ministry of the Interior announced a revision of its law on the immigration of people from Hong Kong and Macau, which it has sent to the Executive Yuan (the cabinet). It expects approval by the end of the month.

The revision allows qualified people from Hong Kong and Macau to move to Taiwan and work.

If they stay for five consecutive years, they can apply for permanent residence and become citizens of the Republic of China.

The initial visa will be for one year, which can be extended for two years according to the success of the business and then a further two years. They must be in Taiwan for at least 183 days each year.

A ministry official said it was following the example of other countries in attracting entrepreneurs, both foreign and from Hong Kong and Macau, to conduct their business in Taiwan and stimulate economic growth.

Existing law already allows citizens of other countries to apply for this program.

There are several reasons for this initiative.

One is that many talented Taiwan people leave the island to work for foreign and mainland firm because of higher wages and better work opportunities.

Last week, for example, the National Space Organization announced that it had accepted the resignation of its lead scientist, Liu Cheng-yen, after he agreed to take a position at the Beijing University of Technology.

The university hired him as part of Beijing’s “thousand talents” program to support expanded laboratories, research projects and science parks across mainland China.

Taiwan fears that this outflow to the mainland is eroding its advantage in the sectors in which its high-tech firms still have a competitive edge over their cross-strait rivals.

Second, the Ministry of Labor said earlier this year that the island’s workforce would shrink by 180,000 people a year as society ages.

Taiwan needs young and qualified workers but would prefer not to recruit them from the mainland.

Hong Kong, Macau and Mandarin-speaking overseas Chinese are its preference.

Taiwan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. The population is expected to reach 23.7 million in 2024 and decrease thereafter.

At present, 189,000 Asians are studying at Taiwan universities, including 90,000 from Malaysia, but only several thousand remain after graduation.

Last week, Prime Minister Mao Chi-kuo called for measures to retain and retrain Southeast Asian workers, including in vocational high schools, so that they can work in Taiwan or in Taiwanese-owned companies abroad.

Third, the government wants to build on the momentum of Hong Kong emigrants, whose number reached a record 7,498 last year, compared with 4,624 in 2013.

They are leaving because of fears about the future, high property prices, pollution, a lack of democracy and the city’s increasing “mainlandisation”.

Taiwan’s government regards Hongkongers as among the best migrants, because of their language skills and their being Chinese and coming from a non-communist area.

Taiwan developer Yuan Hong Group, which markets aggressively to Hong Kong people, said there were four kinds of immigrant buyers of property.

The largest group is of professionals between 45 and 55 years of age who want to enjoy Taiwan’s quality of life.

They account for half the buyers, looking for properties in the NT$5-8 million range.

Twenty per cent are young people who have found a job and need an affordable apartment.

Then there are parents who buy properties for their children studying in Taiwan, and finally the very rich, who buy top-end properties.

Raymond Chan, a photographer, and his wife, Kia Pang, moved to Taipei three years ago and opened the Canopy Coffee shop in Taipei, close to National Taiwan University.

“The quality of life here is good,” Chan said. “But it is difficult to make money.

“Wages are low, and people prefer to save rather than spend.

“They’d rather spend on property and cars than eating out.

“Taiwan has a more traditional culture than Hong Kong, which the Kuomintang brought with them from the mainland.

“Hong Kong people are more flexible and international.

“I was discussing Confucianism with a friend. I said it was a system used by the emperor to control people.

“He became upset, saying: ‘How could you say that? It is the essence of being Chinese.’

“So I advise Hong Kong people moving here to be prepared for culture shock.” 

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Hong Kong-based journalist and author. He had worked as a correspondent for the South China Morning Post in Beijing and Shanghai.

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