The hunt is on

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2008, 12:00am

The government has revealed statistics showing the monthly median income for young people has fallen as much as 13.3 per cent, or HK$1,000, in the past decade.

This is compared to an increase of 5.3 per cent over the entire workforce.

A Profile of Youths, 2006 released by the Census and Statistics Department last month highlights the socio-economic position of young people aged 15 to 24 in 2006 and compares it to data from 1996.

It shows the median youth income dropped to HK$6,500 from HK$7,500 10 years ago.

This is despite a significant increase in education. Of Hong Kong's 910,000 young people in 2006, more than 31 per cent possessed a tertiary education qualification, compared to only 19 per cent in 1996.

'The growth of Hong Kong's economy is slower. Middle-aged workers still hold their positions, and so young people with little experience are facing growing discrimination in the job market,' says Dr Chung Kim-wah, assistant professor of the department of applied social sciences at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Isabella Hui, 23, is one of these young people. Since graduating with a higher diploma two years ago, Ms Hui has worked as a production assistant for a local firm, earning just HK$6,600 a month.

'I have a friend who has a degree in Economics. He was only paid HK$7,400 at his first job,' she says.

Dr Chui Yat-hung, Dr Chung's colleague, points out that today's graduates are in a hurry to find any job to repay school fee or credit card debts.

'It means there's no shortage of job hunters ... [so employers] can lower wages and cut costs.'

But the good news is that employers are willing to raise salaries. 'Some employers take a wait-and-see approach. They'd rather increase salaries after a year or two when they're sure employees are worth it.'

But don't give up hope - you can get better jobs.

'Languages - Putonghua and English - are a must. Integrated skills are also essential: an accounting student has to show other capabilities, such as computing skills or legal knowledge,' says Dr Chui.

The key is to develop your career gradually. 'Instead of looking for a highly-paid job, young people should consider the job's nature and prospects. A sales rep's salary may seem attractive as commission is included. But that experience is of little help, unless you want to do it for life.'

How to enhance employability

master good language skills

engage in jobs with sound prospect

demonstrate integrated skills

acquire knowledge of speciality

set a clear career direction and stick to it