Hong Kong: Student Liveability
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:
- Student community (student mix)
- Quality of life
- Employer reputation
- Economic stability
- Culture & Environment
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.
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?
Q: Is there a wide range of available jobs in Hong Kong? Why?
Q: What jobs do you think are most popular amongst university students in Hong Kong?
Q: What do you think about the wages for different jobs in Hong Kong?
Q: Do you think Hong Kong has a wide range of talent to fill up jobs? Why?
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
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
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.