Families feel squeeze as inflation eats into income

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong's high-income and middle-class groups have expanded over the past decade, but families are earning less because inflation offset gains in income, census data shows.

A legislator representing the social welfare sector said the data showed the urgent need for new policies to help the poorest families and bridge the rich-poor divide.

The Census and Statistics Department said the median monthly household income rose from HK$18,710 in 2001 to HK$20,500 last year. About 23 per cent of households, or more than 550,000, had a monthly income of HK$40,000 or more, compared with 18 per cent a decade ago.

But the census and statistics commissioner, Lily Ou-yang Fong, said inflation outpaced income growth over the same period.

The consumer price index rose by 12.5 per cent in the decade, compared with the 9.6 per cent growth in household income, indicating that in real terms Hong Kong families were making 'slightly less' than in 2001.

About 85,000 households live on an income of less than HK$2,000 a month, statistics show. Another 130,000 households have between HK$2,000 and HK$4,000 a month in income.

Lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che said the results showed there was growing pressure on low-income earners and the government should roll out more policies, such as rent subsidies, to help these people.

'In every budget, they're trying to please everyone, but there have been no measures to help the poorest 200,000 of the population,' Cheung said.

The census data also showed that rents for private residential flats soared by 41 per cent over the decade, with median monthly rent reaching HK$7,500 last year, compared with HK$5,300 in 2001.

At the same time, the financial burden on private flat owners dropped. Some 60 per cent of private home owners had either paid off their mortgage or made home purchases without borrowing. Mortgage repayments for private housing also slid from a median of HK$11,000 a month in 2001 to HK$8,000 last year.

The government said the census could not give a full picture of the prevalence of subdivided flats.


households live on just HK$2,000 a month

- 130,000 have a monthly income of HK$2,000 to HK$4,000