Only political game in town attracts the young

The dismal failures of Occupy and the Mong Kok riot, and the jailings that followed, have taken their toll but graduates are crying out for civil service jobs

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 August, 2018, 8:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 August, 2018, 10:21pm

Most young people have no interest in a political career, according to a new survey of randomly selected interviewees by a youth group. Neither do they trust their government.

However, the civil service has been named the city’s most desirable employer, says another study, which surveyed thousands of students from six local universities. It’s now even preferable to perennial favourite boss Google and four big banks. How do we make sense of such anomalies?

According to think tank Youth IDEAS, which polled 520 people aged 18 to 34, 68.5 per cent believed a lack of talent was a major hindrance to effective governance, while 66.7 per cent expressed a lack of trust in the government. But most ruled out going into politics, for reasons such as a lack of relevant skills, political polarisation and an inability to effect change.

Yet, another study by Universum, a Swedish-based survey company that interviewed more than 4,000 local university students, named the government as the best employer.

For one, we need to appreciate the non-viability of a political career in Hong Kong. We should also focus on the different sampling of those studied in the two surveys. Perhaps university students, far from becoming radical, are more conservative than we think.

Hong Kong’s civil service replaces Google as students’ most ideal employer

For many young people, the political realities have been the dismal failures of the Occupy protests of 2014 and the Mong Kok riot/fishball revolution. The latter, especially, landed dozens of young rioters/radicals in jail. Radical politics has been a straight path to prison, or at least a criminal record and unemployment.

Some people still encourage young people to throw themselves at the barricades; they should send their own children there first.

Realistically, the most viable political career is either through political parties or the government. But post-1997 party politics, especially for the opposition, has been nearing a dead end. Even for parties allied with the government, there are few desirable jobs or careers available.

If you are a fresh university graduate, of course you want a cushy job with the civil service. Don’t tell me the civil service is not political. Most of our policy bureau chiefs have been promoted from the civil service; and two of our four chief executives were career civil servants.

Like other local monopolies in their own sectors, the government is increasingly the only political game in town. Young people, of course, know that.