Work and pay woes put Hong Kong residents in doldrums compared to China's cities

Post survey shows city's mood has taken a dive, with its stressed-out residents less happy with their standard of living than those on mainland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 6:26am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 7:33pm

People in Hong Kong are far more unhappy with life than those in cities on the mainland, a South China Morning Post poll has revealed.

Most say they work too hard and are paid too little, with the gloomy mood extending to everything from air quality to relationships.

And fewer than a quarter of Hongkongers felt their standard of living had improved in recent years, while most mainlanders - 66 per cent on average - said their lives were better.

In fact, Hongkongers said they were happier only when it came to medical provision and food safety.

Dr Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the results were not surprising.

"Hong Kong's happiness is lower than most places in the world," he said. "Life is hard and it is a very stressful city. A lot of people are unhappy with living standards and the air quality."

The survey was commissioned by the Post and carried out by the global market research company Ipsos.

It covered Hong Kong and seven mainland cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenyang , Xian , Wuhan and Chengdu .

Just 40 per cent of Hong Kong respondents said they were happy, while in Shanghai and Beijing the figure was around 70 per cent.

Money was a big factor. An average of 42 per cent on the mainland said they were satisfied with their income, while only 22 per cent felt the same way in Hong Kong.

Hongkongers were also more pessimistic about the prospects of a pay rise.

They were shown to work a 48-hour week compared to 411/2 hours on the mainland, and more than 80 per cent felt under pressure at work, compared to 48 per cent on the mainland.

A total of 2,400 people aged 20 and over were interviewed in the online poll.

Those questioned in Hong Kong, where the median monthly household income is about HK$22,000, had an individual monthly wage of at least HK$15,000.

In the first-tier mainland cities, the minimum income was 5,000 yuan (HK$6,330) and in the second-tier cities it was 4,000 yuan.

Nearly three-quarters of Shanghai residents said they felt safe in their city, with Beijing ranked second at 62 per cent.

Only 49 per cent of Hongkongers said they felt safe - although that was one percentage point higher than the average in the mainland cities.

And just 44 per cent of Hongkongers said they got on well with their families, compared to 81 per cent of mainlanders.

The figures were similar when it came to Hongkongers' relationships with their friends and work colleagues.

In general, half of the mainland interviewees were satisfied with their living environment, compared to less than a third of Hongkongers.

The city's residents even expressed greater dissatisfaction with air quality - despite the problem being much worse in mainland cities.

However, the poll was carried out in August, before the recent air pollution in Beijing and Shanghai.

Political scientist Ma said Hong Kong was a relatively safe city, "but when people get used to it, they don't recognise that any more".

He added: "Of course, Hong Kong is more free than most, if not all, of mainland cities.

"But some polls show that people are worried that the city's freedom is deteriorating."

However, comedian Jami Gong, founder of the TakeOut Comedy Club in Central, tried to put a positive spin on things.

"We've got the Octopus card, cheap taxis, the greatest transportation in the world and you can pay your electricity bill at 5 o'clock in the morning at a 7-Eleven," he said.

"The weather is fantastic and there's Disneyland and great hiking trails.

"I tell people we've got the best of both worlds because you can be in the metropolis and then, after 30 minutes on a bus, you can be on a beach."

Gong, 44, who came to Hong Kong from New York seven years ago, said there was a distinct difference between the happiness levels of expatriates and locals.

"Locals are miserable," he joked. "They are not as positive as they should be."