Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated and financially significant regions on Earth, but it also has a massive issue with income inequality. Roughly one-fifth of Hong Kong’s residents are living in poverty as of November 2018, with monthly income for those people falling below the poverty line equaling $700 a month. The average cost of living for a 900 square foot apartment plus utilities in a normal area for two equals $3,885 a month. In the text below, the top 10 facts about poverty in Hong Kong are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Hong Kong

  1. The population is aging. With 7.4 million residents, Hong Kong is home to many people of older generations. The combination of changing technologies and markets has impacted those who served in more blue-collar jobs in years past. This has a dramatic effect on how they are able to pay for housing, food and basic necessities when white collar jobs are taking over the city. The government has provided handouts that have helped many in poverty, but what truly needs to be done is proper job reeducation and reassignment.
  2. Cohabitating with elderly parents is becoming necessary. As many young adults seek to explore their career paths and the vast megalopolis of the Pearl River Delta, they realize they don’t have the means to expand. In order to keep parents from falling below the poverty line and to give their future children exceptional opportunities, many young couples are forced to stay with their parents. However, this is only a temporary solution to the long-term issue of how to deal with economic struggles. Thankfully, the local and national governments are considering how to reengage the elderly through the use of their accumulated knowledge.
  3. Monthly rent is 70 percent of the median household income for half of Hong Kong. With the average monthly income of those below the poverty line not reaching the 70 percent statistic to pay for livable housing, a dark housing market has appeared. Illegal housing has entered roughly one in four structures in Hong Kong. In order to combat the rise of illegal housing and unlivable structures, the government of China must provide affordable and government subsidized housing rather than solely catering to the wealthy.
  4. Wages have not risen to meet the rise in housing cost. The average unskilled worker has to work 12-hours per day to afford a 100 square foot coffin home. In order to meet the needs of its citizens, Hong Kong must increase welfare payments in the form of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). CSSA must become more than just a safety net for basic needs and should fully encompass the needs of those in poverty in Hong Kong through food assistance and other means.
  5. Women are disproportionately affected by poverty. China has historically undervalued women. The one-child policy preferred boys and illegal sex-selective abortions were utilized. Hong Kong’s 2017 census stated that roughly 451,700 women fell below the poverty line, where only 80,800 men did. In order to fully engage society and bring skilled workers into the workforce, education and protections must be put in place for women and young girls.
  6. The poor are unfairly stigmatized. Those in poverty in Hong Kong are seen as being lazy for the position they’ve fallen into. This attitude speaks to a larger ambivalent attitude towards meaning and wealth in Hong Kong, as status and titles have unfortunately taken over humility and humanity. In order to combat this harsh attitude, people of Hong Kong must embrace the people in their society that make them uncomfortable.
  7. Cyber cafes have become havens for the poor. Hong Kongers who fall below the poverty line and cannot afford to house have taken to spending their days and nights at cyber cafes. For a low cost of entry, cyber cafes provide shelter and internet access between jobs for the poor.
  8. Hong Kong’s bureaucracy is one of the causes of the problem. The issues the homeless face could be solved, but government division has slowed progress. Separate departments cover similar issues but have no central governing body. Experts suggest that examples from New York’s consolidated Department of Homeless Services should be followed.
  9. Nongovernmental organizations could help Hong Kong. Government leasing of properties occurs in Hong Kong but leasing from nongovernmental organizations could greatly assist those in need. Government support of organizations who control these properties would allow for the poor and homeless to be taken care of effectively by trained professionals.
  10. The wealth distribution is uneven. The top 10 percent in Hong Kong earn roughly 44 times more than the lowest 10 percent who fall far below the top monthly earnings. This income divide is further pushed by wealthy business interests who influence politicians. This directly damages the ability of the poor and homeless to receive any assistance.

While poverty is a massive issue in Hong Kong, individuals and governing bodies can no longer turn a blind eye. For the sake of those in need, the country and its politicians must take notice of the damaged parts of their society, as it is shown in these top 10 facts about poverty in Hong Kong.

– Zach Margolis

Photo: Flickr

Education in Hong Kong: Problems and SolutionsSimilar to the British system, education in Hong Kong consists of a 9-year compulsory education for students aged six to 15. Before enrolling in university, most students complete 12 years of study at public or government-aided schools, which are generally free to attend. However, there also exists a private international school system that is in high demand in Hong Kong: the schools are highly competitive to enroll in and boast very high tuition and schooling fees.

The education system in Hong Kong ranks high, though there are a few evident problems. Experts claim that quite a few schools overly stress “reciting” material, which requires students to memorize information verbatim. Further, the “spoon-fed” teaching style does not allow for lively student debates or the promotion of critical thinking. There is a worry that the mechanical reciting and negative acceptance of learning materials will restrain potential creativity and imagination among students. Other major problems of the current education system include low enrolment rates in local universities as well as social and psychological problems among students due to high stress.

There are advantages of getting an education in Hong Kong: one is that the use of English is more popularized in Hong Kong, as compared to mainland China. However, with respect to the education itself, there is no major difference between schools in Hong Kong and mainland China.

The system of education in Hong Kong makes it quite difficult for local students in Hong Kong to connect with Chinese culture and mainland China. In addition, many teachers in Hong Kong are greatly influenced by Western education; thus, they are more likely to recognize the issues of freedom, democracy and human rights as opposed to strengthening their identities with the mainland region. At the moment, both primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong are encouraged by the central government of China to set up curriculums that include Chinese teaching and bilingual learning.

There have been 3,714 cultural exchange programs with nearly 60,000 participants from mainland China to Hong Kong and Macao from 2006 to 2010. Both the scale and quality of cultural exchange has grown in the past decade. The exchange programs that have been included in the education in Hong Kong encourage closing the culture gap between students of these regions.

As mentioned earlier, pressures of higher education in Hong Kong have led to increased stress among students. This is fuelled by a prevailing ideology among the Hong Kong society that nothing is achieved without attending university. More than 80,000 high school graduates compete for one of the 15,000 government-subsidized first-year university spots each year.

Greater efforts must be made to address the stress faced by students within the system of education in Hong Kong. At the moment, the Hong Kong Children and Youth Services helps those who have a tendency of violence. Its staff provides services in addition to speaking gently, listening to the youth and helping them process their thoughts with patience and empathy. The Hong Kong Youth and Children Education Center opened in 2013, offering self-sponsored services and free testing for kids of families in need. It facilitates would be capable of helping them recollect self-esteem, increase resilience and coping skills.

Education in Hong Kong is moving towards an advanced global education system while also placing efforts on fusing the cultures between mainland China and itself. Reasonable solutions and measures depend not only on efforts by the government, schools and society, but also relies on the interactions between teachers, students and their families.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

A Prospect of Solutions to Hunger in Hong KongAs a cosmopolitan region with high economic prosperity, hunger in Hong Kong is often overlooked, since there are both short-term food assistance and governmental welfare systems available. However, as one of the most densely populated cities in the world with seven million residents, hunger for a healthy diet exists among low-income families in Hong Kong.

According to a 2014 joint study by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and the Social Work Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, about 70,000 people lack fresh fruit and vegetables for daily consumption, while 40,000 people cannot afford to eat three meals per day.

There is also some argument as to whether Hong Kong is a well-developed or developing region. As indicated by a 2012 census report, Hong Kong’s 15.2 percent poverty rate suggests that around one million people may experience a risk of hunger and related health issues. The population of working poor was estimated at 644,000, while one-third of senior citizens and one-fifth of children live below the poverty line in Hong Kong. In addition, there is a significant gap between the rich and the poor.

The most common ways for low-income families to reduce their living costs include purchasing food on sale in large supermarkets or accepting food donations from charitable organizations. Households that are highly dependent on cheap food have a higher risk of malnutrition and related health and social issues due to the poor quality of food.

In the past few years, several nonprofit organizations have carried out several projects to improve the diets of people living under the poverty line in Hong Kong. The Feeding Hong Kong program both collects and delivers surplus fruits, vegetables and canned foods through multiple charitable organizations and communities. The Food for Thought project focuses on seniors by arranging food donations in the basketball court of Tin Yiu Estate once a week. They provide surplus food donated by market stalls and offer it to anyone who comes, with no means testing required.

While there is still a long march to eliminate the negative impacts of hunger in Hong Kong, many organizations are working to eliminate food waste and get it into the hands of those who need it most.

Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in Hong Kong
Just like its skyscrapers, the cost of living in Hong Kong is among the highest anywhere in the world. In a Mercer survey published in June 2017, Hong Kong was named the second most expensive city globally for expatriates to live and first among developed nations.

Hong Kong is a destination city for businesses and professionals alike, boasting over 4,000 individuals worth over $30 million each. Many businesses have found Hong Kong to be one of the most agreeable cities to reside in due to the low 16.5 percent corporate tax rate.

For the less fortunate, however, the cost of living in Hong Kong is confining– literally.

With a monthly wage of $2,652, the average Hong Kong citizen spends most of their earnings on rent alone. The smallest apartments in Hong Kong cost around $1,000 per month, with more spacious units ranging from $2,000-2,500 before utilities. Many Hong Kong residents work longer hours and split small flats into sleeping cubicles in order to save on rent.

With so much disposable income being eaten up by housing costs, many residents face the very real problem of food insecurity. Going out to restaurants has become a luxury, as many people must now rely on charitable donations and government assistance to eat.

For Hong Kong’s poorest, those living on less than $328 a month, the cost of rent in Hong Kong makes living in the city unsustainable. Over 30 percent of the city’s elderly population live in poverty, while the wealthiest families make over 44 times what the average citizen makes.

Economists have urged the government of Hong Kong to institute universal incomes and pensions to prevent the wealth gap from widening. Efforts to address the growing wealth inequality in the country must be made with urgency for the sake of Hong Kong’s struggling citizens.

Thomas James Anania

Photo: Pixabay

Common Diseases in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s socioeconomic advancement has both improved and deteriorated the status of its public health. While infectious diseases are no longer considered a common threat to citizens, illnesses correlated with societal improvement have emerged as common diseases in Hong Kong. The current medical burdens for Hong Kong are long-term illnesses such as obesity, respiratory illnesses and dementia.

With greater food security and economic prosperity comes greater liberty to choose the desired quality and quantity of food sources. An increasing urban population hungry for the convenience of Western fast-food cuisine has made obesity one of the most common diseases in Hong Kong. A highly susceptible target of obesity in Hong Kong is its middle class; cheaper, high-calorie meals combined with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle strain the status of health for this social class. Although Hong Kong is a high-income region of China, it chooses to buy nutritionally deficient food for accessibility and indulgence.

Poor air quality and the prevalence of smoking among adults make respiratory illnesses an increasing concern. The National Health Center for Biotechnology Information claims that “respiratory disease is responsible for the highest health-care burden locally. Increased efforts in improving management and prevention of these diseases, including tobacco control, improving air quality and vaccination against influenza and pneumococci, are necessary.” Three million deaths induced by respiratory illness associated with smoking occur per year; this statistic is expected to increase to 10 million by 2025 (with two million of those deaths taking place in China) according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Addressing Hong Kong’s poor air quality due to industrial carbon emissions and social attitude towards smoking is unavoidable for the future of public health.

Hong Kong’s high life expectancy comes with its drawbacks. With an increasingly older population, dementia is becoming more prevalent among Hong Kong’s citizens. The lack of care facilities specializing in treatment for dementia adds pressure to the medical epidemic. However, the increasing presence of the disease has brought with it awareness, and thus it has received national attention. This awareness may be helpful in accommodating dementia sufferers with more treatment centers and medical options.

Mobilization is the most effective solution, due to the socioeconomic-induced nature of these common diseases in Hong Kong. Citizens must promote and sustain healthier models of living for the health of the public as well as the environment. Through integrated cooperation of Hong Kong’s citizens, corporations and the government, the adverse effects can slow down, creating a healthier future.

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr


For the past decade, an overwhelming number of incidents involving the suicides of school-aged children in Hong Kong occurred. Since 2013, more than 70 student suicides have been reported. In February alone, three happened over an eight-day period. This issue has greatly contributed to cries for increased mental health awareness in Hong Kong.

Part of the concern always revolved around the academic intensity of Hong Kong’s education system. However, the Legislative Council denies the connection. The chairman of the Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides, University of Hong Kong’s Professor Paul Yip Siu-Fai, says a number of factors contribute to each case, so the issue cannot be viewed as academic rigor alone.

The Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides formed in response to the influx of student suicides over the 2016 academic year. A total of 35 students took their own lives, with at least one as young as 11 years old. The Committee recommends that schools and families work together to address all contributing factors. Specifically targeting academic strain, personal relationships, access to mental health services and non-academic hobbies to improve mental health awareness.

The Education Bureau is currently under the process of taking these recommendations into consideration. Part of the program would include a more effective provision of counseling and mental health services to students, encouragement of extracurricular accomplishments and training to recognize and address the warning signs of serious mental health conditions in students.

Another facet of addressing increasing rates of student suicides is ensuring proper media coverage. This means that the media reports on the issues and the specific cases, rather than neglecting them, and doing so in a way that succeeds in not sensationalizing the issues of suicide and mental health awareness in Hong Kong.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

Congress and Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act
Florida’s Republican Senator and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Marco Rubio and Republican Arizona Senator Tom Cotton introduced a revised version of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to congress. The revision comes as a response to the recent abductions of booksellers and the removal of Hong Kong pro-independence leaders from office.

Hong Kong has been a special administrative region of China since 1997. The relationship between Hong Kong and China works under the principle “One Country, Two Systems.” Other than foreign affairs and defense, Hong Kong operates independently.

However, in the past year there have been conflicts between the two entities. According to Rubio, the act will “renew the United States’ historical commitment to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault.”

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act reaffirms the principles of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992. In addition to the U.S. support of democratic actions, freedom of expression and the upholding of human rights, it also warns against the government of the People’s Republic of China from obstructing Hong Kong’s independence.

The revised act will also require that Hong Kong issue an annual report, and the U.S. Secretary of State will determine if it is operating independently. Furthermore, the act calls to freeze the assets of individuals who violate the rights of Hong Kong citizens.

The act cites cases in which pro-democracy activists have been harassed. Some have had legal charges pressed against them, while others have faced travel restrictions. Members of the press have disappeared after publishing works criticizing Beijing. Journalists who have done the same have been physically attacked.

“China’s assault on democratic institutions and human rights is of central importance to the people of Hong Kong and of its status as a free market, economic powerhouse, and hub for international trade and investment,” Rubio said. “It is critical in the days ahead that the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong be a vital U.S. interest and foreign policy priority.”

By introducing the new Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, it aims to draw attention to the increased reports of human rights violations in Hong Kong linked to China, as well as punish those who do not uphold democracy.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s growth in the global financial economy has made the country a beacon of rapid development and opulence. Behind the image of luxurious expansion lurks a harsh reality of inequality and growing rates of hunger. A Hong Kong nonprofit aims to help the city’s bounty feed all.

As a major port city and a booming hub of global trade, Hong Kong’s GDP continues to grow. Trading Economics’ data indicates that Hong Kong’s GDP growth in 2016 has nearly doubled since its GDP growth in 2015. This wealth, however, is distributed disproportionately.

The CIA World Factbook designates Hong Kong’s level of income inequality as the tenth worst in the world, and the U.N. Development Program claims Hong Kong has the highest level of income inequality among highly developed nations.

Data on poverty and hunger illuminate these inequities. According to Trading Economics, the poverty line in Hong Kong is HK$ 3,275 per month (about $422) with an hourly minimum wage of HK$ 32 (roughly $4). Twenty percent of Hong Kong’s population currently lives below this threshold, leaving many citizens food insecure.

In light of these concerns, the South China Morning Post reported that the U.N. considered opening a World Food Program (WFP) office in Hong Kong in 2013, citing the region as an appropriate candidate for further attention.

However, the U.N. never established an office, leaving Hong Kong without a concrete inter-governmental organization to deal with the growing issue of food insecurity. Gabrielle Kirstein, co-founder and executive director of Feeding Hong Kong, aimed to address hunger in Hong Kong by creating a nonprofit that would divert food waste to feed those in need.

Feeding Hong Kong (FHK) is a self-proclaimed “Hong Kong food bank with a difference.” By accepting usable food donations from corporate partners, restaurants, grocery stores and delis, FHK creates a supply chain that directs surplus food into the hands of over 25 charities and community organizations that address poverty and hunger. It is the only nonprofit of its kind in Hong Kong.

To ensure the continued effectiveness of the program, FHK thoughtfully distributes the food it collects to its constituent organizations. For example, FHK deliberately addresses the needs of children’s welfare programs differently than those of adults. FHK aims to address hunger in Hong Kong by supporting these already established organizations in their endeavors to provide essential services.

FHK functions in a dense urban environment by harnessing the resources around it. For FHK’s annual event, “Chefs in the Community,” culinary professionals volunteer with local charities to improve their food services. The Feeding Hong Kong Cookbook Collection is sold to generate funds for the nonprofit, while spreading awareness of how to reduce food waste, even in a personal kitchen setting.

Despite growing rates of hunger in Hong Kong, FHK has established a network to solve several issues associated with rapid urban development. By creating an organization that supports those around it, FHK aims to spread the wealth of the nation by eradicating hunger, one meal at a time.

Laurel Klafehn

Photo: Flickr

poverty in hong kong
According to a study conducted by Professor Maggie Lau of the City University of Hong Kong in the Department of Public Policy research shows that poverty in Hong Kong is vast.

Dr. Lau’s study aims to focus on various socio-economic groups in order to understand how poverty affects these different groups. The groups include lone parents, couples with children, those without children, single adults and the elderly. The research conducted on these different demographics serves to specify which groups in particular are facing the highest levels of poverty.

Recently, Hong Kong fell in the rankings for being a “livable city” due to the high cost of living and large population. With a widening inequality gap, the wealthier are accruing more while the poor are falling more deeply into poverty. Aid in the form of government services is relatively nonexistent.

“Some of the poor are moving from temporary poverty to chronic poverty and intergenerational poverty,” according to Liu Yuanchun, director of the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China.

Chronic poverty is linked to structural poverty meaning that they do not benefit from economic growth. This type of poverty is described as “chronic” because the affected populations are entrenched in poverty for the majority of their lives.

“This means that understanding the manifestations, attributes and social dynamics of chronic poverty to develop additional national and international interventions is crucial.” The underlying cultural and social context of poverty in Hong Kong must be understood in order to develop policies that are effective.

Poverty is becoming institutionalized in the city center where social services and government intervention is lacking. About one out of seven million of the inhabitants of Hong Kong are living in poverty.

The dynamic and rich culture that Hong Kong attracts money and professionals from all over the world. However, it’s falling in terms of its livability standards there are other city centers that offer many of the same features flike Singapore and Tokyo.

The prices of property were raised to astronomical levels in 2003 when the price of housing went up over 300 percent. Although small government in business is a popular staple of life in Hong Kong, government intervention needs to be more urgent or people will begin moving to other places to do business.

– Maxine Gordon

Sources: Poverty and Social Exclusion in Hong Kong, China Daily 1, China Daily 2, Market Watch, Chronic Poverty Research Center
Photo: Daily Mail UK