Socio-economic situation

Hong Kong is the third largest financial centre in the world after New York and London. Its GDP per capita was US$ 46,109.12 in 2017, and ranked no. 16 in the world. The fiscal reserve of Hong Kong as at the end of February 2018 was USS 434.9 billion (Hong Kong Monetary Authority, 2018). Hong Kong is only a small city but its fiscal reserve ranked very high (no. 6) among other well developed countries, for example, Singapore (US$ 252.2 billion, no. 11), Germany (USS 181.4 billion, no. 13), and the USA (US$ 120.9 billion, no. 20) (Wikipedia, 2018). Economically, Hong Kong was recently declared the second most competitive region/country in the world after the USA in 2018 (IMD World Competitiveness Center, 2018).

For the past five decades, the Hong Kong government has been investing a huge amount of money in education, health care, social welfare, and housing. Despite lots of criticism by the locals, the quality of education and medical provision is commendable by world standards. Hong Kong started to offer 9-year and 12-year education in 1978 and 2009 respectively. Hong Kong school students’ performance in international assessments always tops the list (for instance, in mother tongue reading literacy and mathematics literacy, Hong Kong ranked 2nd and science literacy ranked 9th in PISA 2015). Four of the eight government-funded universities ranked the top 50 universities in the world according to QS rankings in 2018. Though not free, the fee for public medical sendee is extremely low as opposed to the high living cost in Hong Kong (the World Cost Of Living index of Hong Kong in 2018 was 111, ranking no. 4 among the most expensive cities in the world). For example, the fee is H KS 50 (equivalent to USS 6.41) for each outpatient visit in government clinics, HKS 180 (equivalent to USS 23) for each accident and emergency attendance, and 1 IKS 120 (equivalent to US$ 15.38) for daily charge in government hospitals.

Hong Kong is doubtlessly an affluent society. Its cost of living index, which ranked no. 2 in 2017, renders Hong Kong the second most expensive city after Singapore. What is worrying is its increasingly widened wealth gap as indicated in the rising Gini co-efficient over the past two decades — from 0.476 in 1991 to a historic high of 0.539 in 2016 despite the government’s efforts to alleviate poverty. The richest 10 per cent of households — with a median monthly income of HK§112,450 (equivalent to USS 14,416) — earned 44 times more than the poorest 10 per cent whose average monthly income is HK§2,560 (equivalent to USS 328). While the number of permanent residents possessing a cash flow of over 1 IKS 10 million (equivalent to USS 1.28 million) reached 68,000 according to a Citibank study (South China Morning Post, 2018, March 22), 231,543 permanent residents are recipients of comprehensive social security assistance, a public scheme for those with an individual monthly income of less than I IKS 2,455 (equivalent to USS 314) in April 2018. By the same token, while some tycoons who are privileged to possess private independent houses worth I IKS 0.5 billion (USS 64.1 million) or above each, 207,233 people are living in subdivided units, which are small independent units of approximately 120 square feet each including a toilet and kitchen within a flat of around 700 square feet. Each subdivided unit is usually occupied by a family of four, and the condition of these subdivided units is outrageous.

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