Young fear lack of money will hold them back from middle-class dream

Survey finds family assets give students more options and lower classes need more resources

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 5:47am

The education system may need an overhaul to improve opportunities for those stuck in a lower class life, an education researcher suggested after a survey found widespread pessimism among young people on their chances of climbing the social ladder.

Joshua Mok Ka-ho was commenting on results of the survey in which more than 80 per cent of respondents said university graduates had more difficulty now than in the 1970s and 1980s in climbing into the middle class.

Also 72 per cent of the 500 respondents aged 15 to 35 thought the wealth gap had become more severe since the 1997 handover.

Mok, acting vice-president of research and development at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, conducted the survey with the Roundtable Community and Softpower Consultancy Limited.

It found that most young Hongkongers think their parents' connections, education and resources deeply affect their own prospects and social mobility.

"Intergenerational assets have proved to make a big difference in a young person's future prospects," Mok said.

This resulted in a lack of opportunity for those from poorer or working-class backgrounds to improve their social standing.

"With the opening up of education and privatisation within the sector, the rich are given more options. This brings further inequality," Mok said.

"The government may need to provide more resources to support the lower class. The whole education system may need to be revised."

In the survey, about 75 per cent thought children of businesspeople or professionals had an edge, and more than half thought family background and connections would make it easier for graduates to get jobs.

About 70 per cent of interviewees saw attending good primary and secondary schools as crucial in sculpting a good future, but more than half also criticised the student intake systems as unfair. More than 36 per cent thought the government did not do enough to help poor students.