Hong Kong students’ outlook hamstrung by skyrocketing house prices and lower incomes

Authors of new study say older generations cannot compare their experiences to today’s youth with graduates now facing significantly changed property market and fewer job prospects

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 10:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2016, 4:43pm

Hong Kong’s university graduates are facing much harsher economic realities after leaving school, compared to 20 years ago, according to a new study.

A study by New Forum and New Youth Forum showed the average- sized New Territories flat now amounts to 71 per cent of a university graduate’s monthly income per square foot, up from 30 per cent in 1995.

Meanwhile, median income for fresh graduates after accounting for inflation was HK$13,916 in 2015, down 15 per cent from HK$16,371 in 1995. Property prices increased 176 per cent and rents 43 per cent, far beyond the rate of inflation.

“It is not fair at all for older people to criticise youths based on their own experiences”
Cliff Tang Wing-chun

The findings give further weight to longstanding concerns among youths over how high property prices, stagnating incomes and fewer high-end jobs have hamstrung social mobility and economic opportunity.

Polytechnic University community college lecturer and New Forum council member Chan Wai-keung said for those lucky enough, the only viable path to home ownership was through the help of family.

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“This creates a phenomenon whereby, if parents can help with the down payment or mortgage, it becomes easier for their children’s children to become homeowners too,” he said.

“On the other hand, if you’re really clever, have a master’s degree, but have parents less well-off... you may not even have the ability to purchase a flat on your own before the age of 30.”

The researchers urged the government to rethink whether producing so many university graduates was the best strategy.

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The number of university graduates increased from 260,000 to 990,000 in the last 25 years, faster than the growth of high skilled jobs. Just 8.5 per cent of graduates in 1995 ended up in low-end jobs, compared to 15 per cent last year.

“Social mobility is no longer determined by income or education level, but assets,” Chan said.

New Youth Forum convener Cliff Tang Wing-chun said the figures indicated that youth today faced far more challenges than those of earlier generations.

“It is not fair at all for older people to criticise youths based on their own experiences,” he said.