More than 60 per cent of Hongkongers believe upgrading their standard of living is harder than 10 years ago, a poll has found.
Furthermore, 43.6 per cent of people foresee upward social mobility getting more difficult in the next decade, according to the Chinese University survey released yesterday.
Researchers interviewed 707 people, aged 18 and above, about their chances of moving up the social ladder.
Only 14.6 per cent of respondents felt their prospects had improved over the past decade, while 54.6 per cent said there were "insufficient" opportunities in Hong Kong for upward social mobility. Just 9.9 per cent believed there were "adequate" opportunities in the city.
Those under 31 years of age, with tertiary level education, tended to be most pessimistic about their prospects of upward social mobility.
Researcher Dr Victor Zheng Wan-tai, associate director of the university's Centre for Social and Political Development Studies, said: "The expansion of tertiary education will naturally raise graduates' expectation about their future careers, wages, and the opportunities of moving up the social ladders.
"A more diversified economy can create more middle-ranking or higher-middle-ranking jobs."
Social mobility can be loosely defined as the ability of individuals or groups to move upwards or downwards in a social hierarchy, based on changes in wealth, occupation and education.
Rates of mobility are often related to economic development. When the economy booms, new jobs are created and old jobs are improved. In times of downturn, upgrading is less frequent and mobility slows down.
Zheng said: "The government should do more to diversify the economy. At present, we are too focused on … tourism, finance, and retail."
But compared with a similar survey by the centre two years ago, Zheng said there did not seem to have been a significant change in people's attitudes.
In the 2011 survey, 52.1 per cent of the respondents complained about a lack of opportunities for them to upgrade their social status.
This year's poll was conducted between February 22 and 26, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.69 per cent and a 95 per cent confidence level.