Hong Kong firms want, but struggle to find AI-skilled hires

Hong Kong
Image courtesy of Dan Freeman

Hiring AI-skilled talent is a priority for 70% of Hong Kong employers but 73% of them struggle to find the AI talent they need, highlighting a looming AI skills gap in the city, according to Amazon Web Services.

New research from AWS shows that when artificial intelligence is fully harnessed, Hong Kong workers with AI skills and expertise could see salary hikes up to 28%, with workers in information technology (28%), and research and development (27%) enjoying the highest pay bumps, followed by sales and marketing (25%).

AWS commissioned Access Partnership to conduct a regional study, which covered more than 1,600 employees and 500 organisations in Hong Kong.

On top of significant salary bumps, the research also found that the productivity payoff from AI could be immense for Hong Kong. Surveyed employers believe that AI can boost their organisations’ productivity by 40%, while workers believe AI could raise their efficiency by as much as 47%. 

Both employers and workers expect to see the same top three productivity benefits from using AI — improving workflow and outcomes (72% & 62%), automating repetitive tasks (66% & 60%), and supporting learning (53% & 50%).

The research also found that employers are also placing greater emphasis on soft skills for employees to possess by 2028. The survey results show that employers find soft skills like critical thinking (56%) and creative thinking (52%) more important than technical skills like coding (51%).

Among the employers surveyed, 84% used AI-powered tools across their organisation in 2023, and this will increase to 94% of all organisations by 2028. 

While most employers believe their IT department (90%) will be the biggest beneficiary, they also foresee R&D (85%), and the business operations department (85%) driving significant value from AI.

Also, the research found that 94% of surveyed employers and 91% of surveyed workers expect to use generative AI tools on the job within the next five years, with 62% of employers highlighting automating repetitive tasks as the top benefit, followed by increasing innovation and creativity (60%) and improving outcomes (56%).

Delving into key industries in Hong Kong, the research shows workers in the financial services sector (71%), which remains one of the city’s most important economic pillars and accounts for around one-fourth of the city’s GDP, are the most positive about the impact of AI on their careers and organisations, compared to the manufacturing (69%), ICT (65%), and wholesale and retail trade sectors (57%). 

A total of 91% financial service respondents use AI tools today, and 94% expect to by 2028. Workers in the sector are well-positioned to reap the benefits of AI, with 81% saying they are “intermediate” or “advanced” in AI fluency.

Further, 80% of Hong Kong workers indicated an interest in developing AI skills to accelerate their careers, and this interest transcends generations and genders.

However, the research also reveals a looming AI skills gap that must be bridged to ensure the city is well-positioned to unlock the full productivity benefits of AI. 

Hiring AI-skilled talent is a priority for 70% of employers in Hong Kong, of which 73% find it challenging to find the AI talent they need. Of the surveyed employers, 76% said they lack the knowledge to implement an AI workforce training program. 

They also lack the financial resources to provide employees with AI training (70%), and time for employees to pursue AI training outside of core work responsibilities (69%). In addition, 65% of employees cited a lack of knowledge of the AI skills training programs available as a top barrier.