Hong Kong's social development has almost come to a halt, according to the latest findings of a tracking study.
The social development index, released yesterday, also indicates family life has worsened to a 'desperate' level, with more divorces and domestic violence, while children have become the hardest-hit social group.
The index, drawn up by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and set at 100 in 1991, measures 47 social and economic factors in assessing changes under 14 headings.
Areas covered include 'crime and public safety', 'political participation', 'housing', 'arts and entertainment', and 'education'. There are also indicators to measure the well-being of groups like children, those on low incomes, and women.
Results have been announced every two years since 2000.
The overall social development index in 2010 was 172, a nominal improvement from the 170 recorded in the last study two years ago.
The council's chief executive, Christine Fang Meng-sang, said: 'The improvement is so insignificant that we can say that there has not been any progress in Hong Kong's social development in the past two years. The government should not take it lightly and should do something to address the problem.'
Eight of the 14 areas under study saw improvements, and 'economic' was the best. Its index jumped to 74, from -9 two years ago, thanks to the booming economy which pushed up the per capita GDP to about $240,000 in 2008.
Six areas recorded a loss. At -906, the 'family solidarity' index was the worst. The index was -535 in 2008, -215 in 2006, and -158 in 2004. The other five areas were 'crime and public safety', 'sports and recreation', 'political participation', 'housing', and 'science and technology'.
For 100 marriages, almost 38 ended up getting divorced. There were 34.7 separations for every 100 marriages two years ago.
And the number of reported domestic violence cases per 100,000 households jumped to a record 319.6 in 2008. It was 211.9 in 2006 and 105.7 in 2004.
Fang described the situation as 'highly desperate'.
'When the function of family of providing cohesion weakens, this will not only affect social harmony, but children's growth, and in turn create more social problems,' said Fang.
She said the government should give more support to families and consider the impact of policies on their welfare. 'We need more longer-term planning. More divorces means more single-parent families, or more children with step-parents. The government should not just sit back and let the problem snowball.'
The report showed that the children's index dropped to -294 from -249 two years ago. When it was first released in 2000, the children's index was -70. According to the council's research, the percentage of children with a single parent rose to 8.7 per cent in 2008, from 8.1 per cent in 2006 and 7.3 per cent in 2004.
The number of deaths per 100,000 children aged four or below also rose to 77.5 in 2008, from 72.3 in 2006 and 62.4 in 2004.
The number of family violence cases handled by police in 2008 was: 7,278