Poll reveals widening income gap in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 7:40am

Hong Kong's poorest 20 per cent take up just 6 per cent of society's income share while the rich take up 43 per cent, a poll has found as the city's notoriously wide income gap continues to worsen.

The survey, conducted last year by Ipsos Media Atlas, polled 6,100 Hongkongers aged between 12 and 64. The results represent about 5.5 million of the city's population, Ipsos said.

Respondents were divided into five groups based on their monthly household incomes, and an average income was calculated for each group.

The poll revealed that the bottom fifth took just 6 per cent of the total income share of those surveyed, while the top fifth took 43 per cent.

"The income disparity is serious," said Ipsos director Susanna Lam Fung-san. "There are signs the situation is deteriorating."

The average monthly household income for the bottom tier increased by just 2 per cent over the past four years, while the top tier saw theirs rise by 10 per cent and the second highest tier's income went up by 14 per cent.

Ho Hei-wah, director of NGO Society for Community Organisation, said this showed that the city's income disparity was not simply a result of its greying population - which the government had blamed for the gap.

"[The survey] didn't include those aged over 65, so most respondents are in the income-earning groups of society," he said. "If the disparity is still so serious, it shows that the wealth gap is real."

Ho was concerned that the disparity would create a gap in knowledge and social capital.

The poll also found that the poor tended to lag behind in terms of technological know-how and even self-confidence.

Poverty created a "digital divide" as low-income households could not afford common technology, Lam said.

Only about a third of the bottom tier owned smartphones, compared with the 48 per cent average among all respondents.

Less than half of them had a desktop computer, compared with the 64 per cent average; and only a quarter owned a laptop, against the 43 per cent average.

Being poor also affected self-confidence, said Lam.

The poll found that more than 60 per cent of the bottom tier did not believe they would achieve their goals in life, while more than half of the top tier believed they would attain their goals.