The number of visas granted to overseas workers in Hong Kong fell by about two-thirds during the Covid-19 pandemic, as stringent travel curbs severed the finance hub’s connection with the rest of the world.
Some 13,800 general employment visas were approved in 2021, compared to more than 41,000 in 2019, according to statistics from the city’s Immigration Department.
The slow pace of reopening looks to be keeping numbers low this year too, with around 5,700 applications approved in the first six months of 2022.
The appeal of Hong Kong also fell for workers from mainland China, who have faced lengthy quarantine periods upon returning home.
In 2021, about 9,000 people arrived under the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals, 35 percent lower than the 2019 figure.
Hong Kong has been struggling with a brain drain, as pandemic rules drag on while the rest of the world reopens.
Chief Executive John Lee acknowledged in his policy address in October that the city lost 140,000 workers over the past two years, and made attracting overseas talent one of his top priorities.
Visitors arriving in the city are still required to wear masks outdoors, take Covid-19 tests upon arrival and undergo three days of health monitoring.