Hong Kong: Student Liveability

Victoria Ngai

Background and overview

I am looking at student liveability in Hong Kong, and I am defining "student" here as an independent university student who is not living with their parents. This topic deeply interests me being a child who has grown up in HK for most of my life so far. In this section, I will give an overview on the type of investigation I will conduct, including examples of investigations done by other people, and some background on HK.

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (香港) is a former British colony located the in southeast of China. It is an international financial centre that is densely populated (with a population of more than 7 million) and mainly speaks Cantonese, Chinese and English. HK is popular among tourists for the skyline, food, shopping and many other attractions including traditional Chinese places as well as developed, international locations.

Here is a map of HK from Google Maps:

Here is a population pyramid for Hong Kong last year from the CIA:

Here are the professional studies I found that were done to measure and evaluate student liveability or liveability in general in different cities:

  • The Mercer Quality of Living Survey
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Liveability Ranking
  • The QS Best Student Cities index

The factors used by these studies that were used to evaluate “liveability” or “student liveability” include:

  • Universities/education
  • Student community (student mix)
  • Affordability
  • Quality of life
  • Employer reputation
  • Economic stability
  • Healthcare
  • Culture & Environment
  • Infrastructure

It needs to be taken into account that something like "student liveability" can be subjective to how different students live and also what they value, but these areas of investigation serve as a broad structure that can account for most students in Hong Kong.


What are the pros and cons of liveability for students in Hong Kong?

1. What is the quality of life like in Hong Kong?

2. What is employer activity like in Hong Kong?

3. Based on sub-questions 1 and 2, what is the overall student liveability like in HK?

Quality of life in Hong Kong


Overall: The overall score for the Hong Kong Quality of Life Index produced by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) dropped from 102.9 points in 2012 to 102.57 points in 2013.

Social factor: The social sub-index of improved from 2012 to 2013.
Economic factor: The economic sub-index decreased by 0.45 points from 2012 to 2013, reaching a record low since 2002. It has been decreasing for 2 consecutive years.
Environmental factor: The environmental sub-index has also been decreasing for 2 consecutive years.

Specific indicators for quality of life: 7 out of the 21 indicators worsened and 13 indicators improved in 2013.

  • The housing affordability ratio reached its lowest point since the index was first launched.
  • The real rental index reached a record low.
  • The government performance index and press freedom index both worsened (press freedom index has been decreasing for 4 consecutive years).
  • The air quality index and the recycle rate of solid waste index both worsened.
Image depicting air quality worsening in Hong Kong. (Source: cia.gov)
Map and photos showing natural and man-made attractions in Hong Kong. (Source: blogspot.com)
Image of the Umbrella Revolution on the cover of TIME. (Source: TIME magazine)


The data from CUHK's Hong Kong Quality of Life Index as well as the images and maps provided show that Hong Kong's quality of life is satisfactory in general, but declining in certain aspects relating to environment, living and freedom.

Hong Kong people might be getting "richer", but not necessarily "happier". As the wealth gap increases in HK and property owners continue to increase prices, one of the most severe current issues in HK is the affordability for living, which is a key aspect influencing quality of life. This is evident through the decreases in the housing affordability ratio and real rental index in the data shown.

Another prominent issue evident in the data is the environmental factor, seen through the worsening situation in the air quality index and the recycle rate of solid waste index. This problem is again heavily influenced by the urban and economic development in HK. As we are rapidly progressing in creating industrial products, we are sacrificing the environmental condition in replace for it. This has a strong influence on the quality of life, for example the air, water and noise pollution is affecting HK citizens' health as well as the quality of their everyday lives.

Of course, the recent Umbrella Revolution has heavily affected the quality of life in the previous year. It has been of so much influence that it was featured on the cover of the TIME magazine in October 2014. The data showing that the government performance index and press freedom index both worsened, and especially that the press freedom index has been decreasing for 4 consecutive years, further proves how freedom in Hong Kong is worsening. The main cause for this is the government in China trying to tighten its vile grasp on the HK government and people (sorry for the small interlude of personal bias), so the quality of life has evidently decreased due to the factor of human rights and freedom in HK.

Despite the downfalls in certain aspects like environment, housing affordability and freedom of speech, Hong Kong is still known to have a high liveability compared to many other cities around the world. The second image above shows some of the natural and manmade attractions that not only attract a lot of tourists, but also make HK a great place to live and explore in. I have personal experience with this, because I have been living in HK for nearly all of my life, but there are still so many places that I am not yet familiar with and would love to explore.

Employer activity in Hong Kong


Ranking: Hong Kong came second on the "Best Student Cities 2014: Top 10 for Employer Activity" ranking from topuniversities.com

Interview with HKU student:

Q: How hard do you think it is to get a job in Hong Kong?
A: 香港找工作不難(洗碗工還沒人做呢),但是找好工作不容易,要找自己喜歡有好收入的工作就難上加難。例如,低級工作沒人肯做,這和中國人的價值觀念有關,覺得靠勞動吃飯是下等人,很多人只看到工資高,環境好,卻沒有想過要付出的代價。

Q: Is there a wide range of available jobs in Hong Kong? Why?
A: 我想由於香港的特殊地理位置和產業結構,大型製造業,像汽車生產等的職業幾乎是零,但由於房地產業的欣欣相融,建築業的相類工作就不少。不過,香港最最繁華的是服務性行業,像酒店,商場等。

Q: What jobs do you think are most popular amongst university students in Hong Kong?
A: 很多大學生好高騖遠,真的以為自己是天之驕子,所以喜歡中環區的工作,高收入,光鮮亮麗。殊不知,從低做起,來累積人生經驗這才是難能可貴的。

Q: What do you think about the wages for different jobs in Hong Kong?
A: 香港的收入指數,我不清楚,但我知道教師的收入來講,香港應該是最高的,而且,香港的稅收是全世界最低的。

Q: Do you think Hong Kong has a wide range of talent to fill up jobs? Why?
A: 香港當然人才濟濟,始終中國人勤勞,而且香港始終不是大陸,貪官污吏沒那麼多吧!

Documentary: BBC 'Working Lives: Hong Kong' from 2011


Jobs introduced in documentary

  • Crane operator at HK container port
    200,000 Hong Kong people worked in the freight and logistics business.
    Flats (600sqft with 2 bedrooms and 1 living room) that middle class workers (like Ho Cheung whose wage is a bit above the average pay in HK) lived in (Hung Hom area) costed around USD$300,000.
    Average home is HK costed 11 times the average salary.
  • Domestic maid
    USD$500 per month, 10 times as much as pay for similar work in Indonesia
  • Event organiser
    500sqft flat in Sheung Wan, rent was around USD$1200 a month
  • Equity analyst
    Rents luxury flat in the Mid-Levels district, 1000sqft flat typically costs USD$2500 a month
  • Coffee shop owner
  • Chef

Hong Kong is globally known for its development in the financial market, its ability to attract talent, and its pay and productivity. HK has a wide range of job opportunities for all sorts of people of different nationalities, especially in the commercial area. As stated by the HKU student, it's not hard to find a job in HK. What is hard is finding a "good" job, especially for many young people who are not willing to accept any "pain" for the "gain". Taxes in HK are also very low compared to other cities in the world, which makes it so attractive for many working people. As quoted in the documentary Hong Kong is "a magnet for money and talent."

Overall student liveability in Hong Kong

Hong Kong ranked 5th overall. (Source: topuniversities.com)

Overall, my results show that despite its flaws, Hong Kong is a very liveable and welcoming city for students. With its range of job opportunities, many talented students from all over the world are attracted to this city. It may be hard to afford for housing, but students can always seek other ways, for example some universities offer for students to live in the school campus. Looking into the future, the level of freedom for students in Hong Kong will hopefully improve as a result of movements like Occupy Central. With increasing awareness on the environment, the level of air pollution will also hopefully clear up. As the relationship between HK and mainland China gets closer and closer, in the near future, more and more mainland students will be moving in. Recently, HKU promoted a campaign for students to spend one year in the mainland, which further proves how HK will become even more connected to China in the future. Personally, I would love to continue my studies in Hong Kong, but there is another city that attracts me even more, which I will be talking about in the next city profile.


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