Hong Kong youth can make a real contribution to society, if we give them the chance to grow

Sky Siu says young people must be given enough channels to engage with their communities, so they can contribute to Hong Kong's future

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 August, 2015, 2:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 August, 2015, 2:33pm

Youth engagement is crucial to support the development and well-being of a community. Yet, living in a city like Hong Kong, where success is largely determined by hierarchy, experience and age, the role of young people in creating a positive impact for the community is too often ignored.

Hong Kong's equation for success places much emphasis on "traditional", well-paid careers such as in law and medicine. However, we often forget that some young people here do not have access to the network and conducive study environment that these professions demand.

This lack of access is not only an issue for the youths of a specific socio-economic background; it also highlights a bigger problem in Hong Kong.

In the corporate sector, other than short-term internships, there are limited sustainable opportunities to nurture young people's talent. In the education system, academic performance is emphasised so much that it often disregards an individual's talent and skills.

In one focus group we ran earlier this year for youths between the ages of 15 and 24, the majority said "opportunities for development" was their topmost concern.

Data from the Census and Statistics Department show that, in 2013, 31,500 people aged 15 to 24 were jobless in Hong Kong. According to the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 104,300 young workers between the ages of 15 and 34 could be counted among the "working poor" in Hong Kong, living on wages of below HK$8,315 a month.

While the government is slowly recognising this gap and starting to connect with young people, we must move beyond talk. We must highlight the value of nurturing young people's passion, to ensure a healthy and motivated generation of future leaders.

As a society, we must continue to give young people channels to excel and encourage them to reach their potential beyond volunteering or week-long internships.

Engagement can take the form of a mentorship and networking programme. By doing so, we are allowing all of us - adults and youth alike - to make small but meaningful contributions to the community.

Young people who do not feel connected to their social environments are less likely to be motivated, and less likely to engage. Can our current support for young people allow them to succeed in Hong Kong?

Youth community engagement is the way to secure our future, but it is a two-way street: young people need to be involved in the community in order to be engaged and make a positive social impact; in return, we need to give them more opportunities to grow.

Sky Siu is executive director of KELY Support Group