Rich-poor gap a big problem for most people

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 December, 2011, 12:00am
 

Most Hongkongers see the city's wealth gap as a serious problem and believe the government is doing too little to tackle it, according to a Chinese University survey.

It also found that most people perceive the government as favouring the rich and that wealth distribution is unfair.

The survey, conducted by the university's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies and the Professionals and Senior Executives Association, interviewed about 1,000 adults by phone in March and September.

The wealth gap has widened since the mid-1990s. Official figures reveal that while the incomes of the poorest have slowly declined since 2004, the wealthiest have seen their earnings grow about 20 per cent.

Three-quarters of respondents ranked the wealth gap as either very serious or serious. Only 5 per cent thought it unimportant.

About 40 per cent said people were poor because of unfair treatment, while the same percentage felt that working hard did not always lead to a better future these days.

One in four respondents thought the rich had become wealthy through 'bad means'.

Almost 60 per cent said the government favoured the rich and were critical of its record on the issue. At the other end of the scale, 20 per cent thought the government was working for the public good. Most people blamed the government for not dealing with the issue adequately.

Association president Herman Hu Shao-ming said the results showed the anti-rich sentiment was not as strong as many had thought.

But Victor Zheng, the institute's associate director, said the way the government let property developers inflate the size of flats by including green features and common areas was an example that may have fuelled the sentiment.

About half of the people said the government should adopt policies that reduce the income gap, with 14 per cent saying they could not make ends meet.

Patrick Lau Lai-chiu, a former director of lands and a member of the association, said the figure was alarming because it meant almost a million Hongkongers were struggling to make a living.

The association recommended the government increase transparency to 'avoid the perception that they favour the rich or big businesses'. It also suggested the tax regime be altered to redistribute wealth.

Professor Wong Chack-kie, the institute's associate director, said he agreed with respondents who said the government was doing too little to address the issue.

He said the political system contributed to the problem, while noting that 'even democracy doesn't solve all problems'.

1.26m

of the city's 7 million residents lived in poverty as of mid-2010, according to a government advisory group

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