Do Hong Kong Youths Believe That They Have a Happy Future?

The recent United Nations’ World Happiness Report recorded ‘Hong Kong as  76th out of 156 countries and territories surveyed, down five spots from last year’s report’ – painting a rather depressing picture. According to another study, Hong Kong’s young people are the unhappiest they have been in a decade whilst other surveys suggest 60% of those aged 18-29 want to emigrate, and 80% are unhappy with the political situation.

Asia Thinkers interviewed two individuals with differing views of the future for young people in HK in order to hear their perspectives. We are hoping that in expressing their opinions that you will take a moment to reflect on the views of others and appreciate the issue from different viewpoints.

 Asia Thinkers interviewed Jenny Lim (23 years old),  a Student at a HKU Business School to get her views on the future for young people in HK.

Hong Kong’s youth are reported as being particularly unhappy, it might be because of the territory’s unusual situation. It’s technically one of the richest territories in Asia, but also has one of the worst wealth gaps. Do you agree with this? How do you feel about your career and economic prospects given the current HK environment?

I  agree with the comment that wealth in HK is in the hands of a  small group of families and that most young Hong Kongers can never obtain such wealth. I am  concerned about my future career prospects as are many of my friends. I am studying business and management and I would like to work with an International company, but I come from a low income family where both my parents are working and we live in a Government Housing estate. The HK job market is very competitive, and if you don’t have the right connections you start at the bottom. My father’s generation still sees HK as the place to make money however, and I am sure if you have money HK can give you a good life but not if you are struggling to pay for housing and living costs.

It is said HK has become a city with limited job opportunities, low wages and expensive private flats where public housing is the only option for millions. Which of these issues concern you the most and why?

Both issues concern me, I am in my final year and have started to look at job opportunities. It is really depressing as starting wages  are very low compared to rent in HK, forcing me to live with my parents. With home ownership getting pricier I doubt I would be able to save up enough money for a down payment. Public housing is an option but I am told that the waiting list is 5 years or more.  My friends are in similar situations and we are all becoming frustrated at the lack of opportunities.

Hong Kong often ranks as having the least affordable housing in the world – and it is said to affect young people’s family planning, and their choice of  future career. Do you feel the housing situation is a major problem and how does it affect you?

The lack of affordable housing is the most important issue for young people in HK. We often face situations of overcrowding. I am living with my parents in the same room as my two younger sisters which makes studying very difficult. If we can’t get housing we have no future and can’t even really consider marriage. What is even more depressing is that the Government seems to  have no plans on how they intend to solve the housing shortages and make housing more affordable.

What are the key challenges HK youths face as they move into the workforce?

Career wise the environment is competitive with long hours and pressure to perform. The competition makes most of us replaceable in entry level type jobs as there is always someone ready to take the job. If you don’t have connections and you are starting a job at entry level, the salary would not be enough to cover housing and living costs, which means the only solution is to live at home.

Many  Hong Kongers have said they are supposed enjoy free speech and a free press, but  they can’t readily discuss what makes them unhappy and have limited political means to change things. Do you agree with that you have limited opportunity to change social issues in HK and will it affect your future planning to stay in HK?

It’s true that Hong Kongers feel as if they have enjoyed free speech and free press, but don’t have the right to democratic elections. I feel we don’t have the forums to publicly discuss what makes us unhappy and it seems we have limited political means to change things. I found it quite horrifying when recently two legislators were disqualified even though they were democratically elected. It seems like Hong Kong citizens don’t have a choice after all. I also feel frustrated as we have no channel to put forward our views. I worry that the rule of Law will eventually be non-existent, and if that happens then I would want to leave… but don’t think I have the means to do so.

Do HK youths worry about their future prospects? Do you feel that there is a future for you in HK ?

My views on the future of HK and are shared by my friends. It is a subject we discuss a lot and find the situation depressing as we can see no positive change for the future. If it wasn’t for my family I would make plans to leave HK once I graduate.

Asia thinkers interviewed bartender, Danish Gurung (25 years old) whose father served with the British Gurkhas in the New Territories. He was born in Hong Kong and when his father retired to Nepal he stayed on.

Hong Kong’s youth are reported as being particularly unhappy, it might be because of the territory’s unusual situation. It’s technically one of the richest territories in Asia, but also has one of the worst wealth gaps.

Do you agree with this? How do you feel about your career and economic prospects given the current HK environment?

There is a lot of wealth in HK, but I feel that there is also opportunity – as long as you’re willing to work hard you’ll have a job. There are always jobs available in bars and restaurants which provide me with enough for basic living and opportunities to develop my career. I find that Hong Kongers are dissatisfied with how things are run, but I am glad we have access to Government services such as education and healthcare.

Hong Kong often ranks as having the least affordable housing in the world – and it is said to “affect young people’s family planning, and their choice of future career.” Do you feel the housing situation is a major problem and how does it affect you?

Housing for me is not an issue. I have always lived in crowded conditions and this doesn’t bother me. I rent a room with four others in Jordon, but most of the time I am working, sleeping or socialising. We have a strong Nepalese community in the area and we support each other. I have never thought about applying for public housing.

What are the key challenges HK youths face as they move into the workforce?

I can only speak for the Nepalese youth. Although most of us can speak Cantonese we have not been taught to read or write Chinese and  so we have limited opportunities for Government work or companies accept us only in low paid jobs. If I had the opportunity I would like to join the police or fire department. Due to lack of work opportunities a lot of my friends dropped out of school and became involved with drugs and gangs.

Many  Hong Kongers have said they are supposed enjoy free speech and a free press, but they can’t readily discuss what makes them unhappy and have limited political means to change things. Do you agree with that you have limited opportunity to change social issues in HK and will it affect your future planning to stay in HK?

I don’t care about politics much. Compared to other places, Hong Kong is quite a free place. As long as you’re willing to work, you’ll have a job and  a basic living standard. I am a little bit scared about the future, because people say that in China the internet is limited, and people cannot use Facebook. ​From my impression, if you are in China, they will limit many things, and I do not want to live my life like that.

Do HK youths worry about their future prospects? Do you feel that there is a future for you in HK ?

I don’t really know much about what the future holds for Hong Kong, but I feel that we are not well accepted and that has sadly made me feel like I do not belong here. My parents decided I should stay in Hong Kong because they thought that the education system here was better than in Nepal, and I would have a better future growing up here. I am not unhappy in HK, however if I can earn enough money I would consider returning to Nepal and opening a bar.

Image provided by HK Govt

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