Why do we have an IT talent drought in Hong Kong?

September 22, 2015 14:33
A recent study showed that there are over 1,500 startups operating in coworking spaces and incubation centers across Hong Kong. One third of the startups are in IT-related work. Photo: internet

Amid a raft of grim economic news in Hong Kong, where fears are mounting about a potential wave of layoffs in the retail industry, the information technology sector has presented a picture of contrast.

At the moment, there is a serious shortage of IT professionals in the city, says Armstrong Lee, a director at Worldwide Consulting Group Co. Ltd.

In a recent Hong Kong Economic Journal column, the executive search consultant shared a recent experience.

"Last month, during a trip to Seoul, I received a request from a finance institution about filling five mid-level to senior IT vacancies, offering monthly salary ranging from HK$50,000-100,000,” Lee wrote.

The vacancies covered system management, network security, project management and database management. So far only one position has been filled.

On a separate occasion, Lee met a number of IT heads from different banks and they too pointed out that they are not being able to find enough IT staff.

Quite a few positions have remained open for a long while, they said.

Complaining that the lack of IT talent is hampering business development, some IT company owners wondered: "Where have all the IT people gone?"

Even for those who luckily found someone, they may not be able to keep them for long.

The owner of an SME told Lee that soon after he hired a fresh graduate, the guy was poached by a big telco with a salary exceeding HK$20,000 a month.

Over the past decade, the IT sector had been a “lagging performer”, suffering from cutbacks and salary reductions from time to time.

But now there is a complete reversal of the situation.

An IT firm owner offered his take on why Hong Kong is facing a drought of IT talent.

"A group of people left the industry following the dotcom bust in 2000. And then another batch of people were gone during the financial crisis in 2008 when lots of companies slashed their IT budgets," Jacky Yiu, co-founder of IT services firm Mouxidea, told EJ Insight.

The IT talent shortage may also have something to do with the proliferation of startups in recent years.

The number of startup companies grew 46 percent this year, according to a government study conducted in August, with IT claiming the biggest share.

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EJ Insight writer