Society has high expectations for those with a tertiary education. Many think it is unacceptable for people with a high level of education to live on social welfare.
Alex Tham Koy-siong, teaching fellow at City University of Hong Kong's department of marketing, believes that each of those 900 people with post-secondary education living on social welfare has their own reasons for their lifestyle. He does not believe it is fair to say today's generation is less inspired to work, despite having high qualifications.
'Every generation, post-80s or not, has a group of people who just don't care about contributing,' Tham says. 'Even when there were only two universities in Hong Kong, there were students who didn't bother to study or work. Now the number of students seems to have ballooned simply because we have so many more universities.'
He said having no qualifications was not the reason people could not find a job - it was their attitude. Therefore, it was unfair to say people with high qualifications should not get social welfare.
'High academic qualifications are no guarantee of success,' he says. 'I think a lot of people have read about the Master's degree holder from Chinese University of Hong Kong failing more than 200 job interviews and having to live on social welfare. This had nothing to do with his academic qualifications, it was his lack of interview skills and his attitude.'
Tham said he always emphasised the 'ASK' concept to his students. This stood for attitude, skills and knowledge. 'Attitude, or the way we approach things, comes in first,' he says. 'A positive attitude and dedication is the number one key to success. Next come skills, and this means inter-personal and communication skills. Knowledge, referring to academic qualifications, comes in last.'
There has been some criticism of associate degrees not gaining recognition and leading to high unemployment and low salaries for those graduates.
Tham disagrees. He thinks an associate degree could provide a second chance for students who did not do well in the A-levels. They could also get top-up degrees.
But one thing that does worry Tham is students' motivation to achieve greatness after entering university. 'From what I observe among today's university students they are not interested in living off society, but some think they have got the job done by earning a place at university,' he said. 'That is a huge mistake. It is my job as an educator to motivate and guide them to think big and prosper.'