My Take

Only Hong Kong's employed young people can afford idealism

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 October, 2015, 1:39am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 October, 2015, 1:39am

Here's the first paragraph in a Post story about young people and the job market: "They are lambasted for being lazy, dismissed as uninterested and compare unfavourably to eager workers from across the border: Hong Kong's young people aren't getting any compliments from the city's bosses."

I have heard the same complaint not only from bosses, but small-business owners and taxi drivers. Taxi drivers! Presumably they heard it from talkative passengers. Well, I don't know if this negative impression is true, but it is certainly widespread within the local business community. So at the very least, young people today have an image problem.

The young man profiled in the story graduated from university and, instead of looking for a secure and high-paying job, started his own business selling cakes online.

He says young people these days don't necessarily want to make money but to feel fulfilled and satisfied in their job.

I think that's brilliant. But he is an exception.

Entrepreneurial activities and new start-ups are few and far between in Hong Kong. In any case, new businesses have a high failure rate: 70 per cent fail within five years.

So, unless you plan on being an entrepreneur and survive on your own for at least half a decade - that would put you in the exceptionally successful 30 per cent bracket - you should worry about your image problem if you are a young person about to enter the workforce.

You know, things like improving your language and people skills, your appearance and presentation ability, generally your marketability and competitiveness.

I know it's old-fashioned and politically incorrect. But since when is life so easy that you don't have to tough it out at the beginning or that you can find spiritual fulfilment and job satisfaction immediately upon being hired?

Meanwhile, many students nowadays are encouraged to fight for an abstract democratic future for Hong Kong.

Idealism is all very well. They may, however, also want to think about their immediate future, that is their employability. I don't mean they should worry about being blacklisted - I don't think that's a problem in Hong Kong - but whether they have any marketable skills to offer.