Hong Kong’s economic rise doesn’t reflect stagnant quality of life, study shows

Think tank calls for government action to improve Hongkongers’ well-being

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2016, 3:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 12:24am

Fifteen years of economic growth in Hong Kong has failed to improve people’s well-being, according to a recent study from one of the city’s leading policy think-tanks.

The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre’s first well-being index showed Hongkongers’ well-being was almost stagnant between 2000 and 2015, rising by just 0.4 per cent despite GDP per capita increasing by almost 60 per cent.

During a press conference at the centre’s Wan Chai office, one researcher said the result showed economic growth had failed to improve people’s living quality.

The centre urged the government to set up an office to focus on well-being-based policymaking and to study specific topics related to improving the quality of life.

The government only needs to do more to improve housing, transport and family to improve people’s overall well-being
Bauhinia chairman Dr Donald Li Kwok-tung

The Bauhinia Well-Being Index collated averages from 11 different subindexes, including income and income redistribution, housing, jobs, health, safety, education, environment, recreation, family, governance and civil society, and transport.

Each subindex was based on a set of indicators, such as property price affordability, public housing waiting times, vehicle density, public transport complaints and transport affordability.

Using a baseline score of 100 in the year 2000, the Bauhinia study showed that overall well-being had only increased to 100.4 by 2015, while GDP per capita rose to 156.9.

Meanwhile, housing and transport were the two greatest factors affecting citizens’ quality of life.

The housing condition index plunged 97 points to a mere score of 3 on the index, and the transport index fell 44 points to a score of 55.

“People’s well-being is very important to Hong Kong’s long-term competitiveness,” Bauhinia chairman Dr Donald Li Kwok-tung said.

“GDP growth can never replace it. The study shows that the government only needs to do more to improve housing, transport and family to improve people’s overall well-being.”

According to the centre, the indicators were based on either Hong Kong government data or credible non-government surveys.

Wong Hung, an associate professor in social work at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Hongkongers failed to benefit from the booming economy because GDP growth was skewed towards certain sectors.

“It’s a problem of income disparity, but it’s also the imbalance of growth in difference sectors,” Wong said.

“Most of the momentum in our economic growth goes towards real estate and finance, which means more money is created inside these sectors,” Wong said.

Having so much of the city’s growth focused within the two sectors contributes to rising property prices and exacerbates the housing affordability issue, he added.

Wong said GDP growth was more evenly distributed in other countries, such as Singapore and South Korea, which benefitted from growth in manufacturing and creative industries.

The Chinese University professor urged the government to focus its policy-making efforts on the problem areas highlighted in the index, such as building more public housing and alleviating traffic congestion.

Additional reporting by Naomi Ng