Two in three Hongkongers think city a bad place to raise children, survey reveals ... and Singaporeans and Shanghainese are happier

Civic Exchange survey compared attitudes of respondents in the three cities and found that a larger number in Hong Kong, especially the young, thought life had worsened

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 June, 2016, 5:10pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 10:04am

Hongkongers are significantly more unhappy about life than their peers in Singapore and Shanghai, with an alarming two thirds thinking the city is not a good place to bring up children and 40 per cent open to leaving it, according to a new well-being survey on city residents.

Independent public policy think tank Civic Exchange randomly polled 1,500 people in Hong Kong – and the same number in Singapore and Shanghai – between September last year and January with the aim of finding out how quality of life was perceived in three similar cities.

Hong Kong lurked at the bottom of almost all gauges of life satisfaction with seven out of 10 believing the city had become “worse” or “much worse” than when they first started living in it.

Just 11 per cent of people in Shanghai and 9 per cent in Singapore felt this way about their cities and most were middle-aged.

Quality of life in Hong Kong worsening with political struggles and astronomic housing prices, research finds

Hongkongers get marginally less dismal as they age but still, two thirds of seniors feel the city is worse to live in compared to 43 per cent in Shanghai. An impressive 81 per cent of Singaporean ­seniors feel life has improved.

Civic Exchange fellow Professor Michael DeGolyer, who led the study, said the data for Hong Kong was “alarming” but hoped it would help the government understand which policy ­domains to prioritise.

“There is clearly lots of dissatisfaction and our findings show it is younger people who find that things are worse,” he said.

At least 42 per cent of respondents admitted they had aspirations to move away from Hong Kong if given the choice, compared to just 17 and 20 per cent in Shanghai and Singapore.

Around 66 per cent believed Hong Kong was not a good place for children to grow up in, compared to just 17 per cent in Shanghai and 20 per cent in Singapore.

The biggest gap between issues Hongkongers cared about most and their satisfaction with them was in quality of government, quality and cost of housing, and education. Residents in Singapore and Shanghai also expressed high dissatisfaction over housing but quality of government was not a major concern.

For Shanghai residents, the gap was widest in housing, medical care, education and the environment, but for Singaporeans, it was in medical care, work and business opportunities, and then housing.

People in Shanghai cared more about the environment than in Hong Kong and Singapore, while Singapore gave more weighting to work and business opportunities driven by its high number of expatriates and migrant workers.

Chinese University political scientist Professor Ma Ngok, who was not involved with the study, said the results were not surprising and generally reflected Hongkongers’ mistrust and disappointment with the government.

“Many, especially the young and educated, do think the quality of governance is going down and with it a deterioration in quality of life,” he said.

Civic Exchange CEO Maura Wong said: “There will be different theories and expectations on why people are less satisfied. The data itself will be a tool for the ­public and government and we encourage additional analysis.”

Wong said many existing quality of life surveys focussed on countries or were based on traditional economic metrics such as GDP, but this study aimed to gauge and compare the well-being of individuals in cities.