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Does an Expat Package Indicate Racism? (Part Two)

Continued from yesterday:

I wanted to take an extra day to think some more about the implications of what the government is trying to do with its so-called “anti-racism bill. It certainly isn’t to wipe out racism as anyone with dark skin who has tried to rent a flat will attest. Nor does the government seem interested in alleviating the prejudice and racism, the 225,000 domestic helpers face every day. Instead it is focusing on the few hundreds of expats who have benefits that differ from those given to local hires.

My wife and I are U. S. citizens and permanent residents. Both of us, when we were employed, have always worked here on local terms. Quite frankly, this gave us an advantage over expats who needed an “expat package.” As anyone in Human Resources will tell you, the “expat package” is going the way of the dodo bird whether the government passes the bill in question or not. It’s just bad business to over-pay expats. One company I am associated with has reduced its Hong Kong expat staff from over 30 to one, in the last 20 years

So what is the government really trying to do here: lower everyone’s compensation, protect locals who are overwhelmingly Chinese from competing with foreigners for professional, managerial, and executive positions, put downward pressure on rents in places like Repulse Bay, Tai Tam and the upper mid-levels, drive out the International schools, put a spin on a bad law by labeling it “anti-racist?” Your guess is as good as mine. It certainly is not doing anything about racism.

Realistically, if a company wants to bring someone into Hong Kong because it believes the person is needed for the company to be successful, they’ll figure out a way to do it, “anti-racism” law or not. There are dozens of ways to compensate people on and off the company’s Hong Kong books. This whole exercise provides a good example of how a government policy, no matter how well meant, lowers the competitiveness of Hong Kong vis-à-vis other locations. The bill as gazetted is worthy of European Union protectionism or U.S. Affirmative Action efforts. We all know how well these things have worked to make doing business in Europe or the U.S. more difficult.

If the government is really interested in promoting Racial Harmony, it should attack the overt racism that so many people experience every day.