Hong Kong’s business community right now is at a critical juncture. According to a recent Chamber survey, many companies will not survive the next six months without further government support.
Our survey, carried out in mid-August, also showed that SMEs have been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic and social restrictions. While almost a quarter of big companies said they feared they would have to close within six months, the figure went up to 42% for SMEs. Smaller companies have also suffered a greater drop in turnover than larger firms, and are far more concerned about cash flow and insufficient business volume.
We appreciate the support that the Government has given so far. Companies of all sizes have told us that the Employment Support Scheme has been particularly useful in helping them survive these exceptional times. The second tranche of the scheme is very welcome and will no doubt save jobs and protect livelihoods.
Our SMEs are the lifeblood of Hong Kong: from long-running family businesses to innovative start-ups, they employ almost half of the workforce and contribute immeasurably to our diverse business community. If these businesses are forced to shut down, it will have a devastating long-term impact on unemployment levels, the wider economy, and Hong Kong’s unique and vibrant business environment.
While our survey painted a gloomy picture, it has been useful in ensuring that we understand businesses’ key concerns as we craft our submission to the Chief Executive ahead of her Policy Address in October.
In this year’s submission, we call for continuing support to see businesses through this unprecedented period. But we are also looking at the longer term. As we prepare for a post-Covid world, Hong Kong should use the opportunity to “build back better,” in particular by improving our capacity in the technology sphere.
Lockdowns around the world have highlighted that being digitally savvy will be crucial for companies in the future. Another Covid-driven trend, which is very worrying, has been higher unemployment among low-paid and younger people. To address both of these issues, we should look at actively upskilling Hong Kong’s workforce to ensure we have the technology skills required for the digital age. If Hong Kong is to remain a global business hub, we cannot be left behind.
We are pleased to report that our survey also showed that the business community is united in its support for the Government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus. We know that mutual support and cooperation will be essential to make sure Hong Kong is in the best position when we emerge from the current challenging conditions.