Household incomes decline in second quarter

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 4:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 5:09am

Hongkongers are getting poorer, government figures show, with median household monthly income falling HK$200 on the previous quarter to HK$22,900 per month for the period from April to June.

Analysts say declining retail sales amid a drop-off in tourist spending due to crackdowns on lavish government expenditure and graft on the mainland are one reason for the decline.

And there were warnings that the hard-pressed younger generation would be squeezed, given that annual inflation was at 4 per cent last month and sky-high home prices show no sign of falling.

"When the mainland sneezes, Hong Kong is going to catch a really bad cold," said Dr Chung Kim-wah, assistant professor of applied social sciences at Polytechnic University.

He pointed to the fact that luxury goods sales had tailed off as the growth in mainland visitor numbers slowed and those who did come spent less to avoid conspicuous consumption. Retail sales have shown year-on-year declines for the past six months.

Given the growing importance of industries such as tourism, retail and related sectors to GDP, the salaries of many wage earners would be linked to retail sales, Chung said.

"It's an age-old problem," Chung said, referring to the city's failure to diversify its economy. "Hong Kong has grown too dependent on earning the easy money from mainland visitors over the past decade and now it's starting to bite."

The median monthly salary per person was also down HK$200 on the previous quarter, to HK$13,000. The split between men and women remained the same; male workers earned a median HK$15,000 per month, women HK$11,000.

With the mainland's runaway economic growth expected to continue tapering off and the United States likely to raise interest rates, Chung sees a grim outlook for a small economy like Hong Kong's, with its heavy reliance on outside investments.

"The mainland's economic bubble will burst one day … and Hong Kong hasn't made the necessary preparations."