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

Indicators on freedom of speech and housing affordability sink to record lows since index was launched in 2003

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 October, 2015, 6:36pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 October, 2015, 9:24pm

Quality of life in Hong Kong declined last year compared to 2013, as the city got to grips with a worsening political climate and increasingly unaffordable housing, an annual Chinese University study found.

Its Hong Kong Quality of Life Index registered a drop of 0.17 points to reach 101.75 for last year, with indicators on freedom of speech and housing affordability sinking to their lowest levels since the index was launched in 2003.

The index covers 23 key indicators of quality of life, six measured in surveys of about 1,000 Hongkongers, the others from official data. It takes 2002 as its base year, and any score over 100 indicates an improvement in quality of life since then.

Explaining the fall in the freedom of speech indicator, sociologist Professor Ting Kwok-fai said: "Some survey respondents said they felt uncomfortable with expressing their views on polarised issues such as the Occupy pro-democracy campaign."

Some respondents felt local media had become less critical of local and central governments.

Wong Hung, director of the university's Centre for Quality of Life, said the surveys took place in August last year, before the Occupy sit-ins for democracy began on September 28.

The index had steadily improved in the early 2000s, peaking at 108.26 in 2007, Wong noted. After falling during the global financial crisis, it had "failed to regain lost ground over the past few years," the academic said.

Of the 23 indicators, 11 had fallen since 2013, 11 had improved, while one - spending on health - remained the same.

Improvements in some indicators - including those measuring air quality and crime rates - largely offset the decline in others, Wong said.

The fall in the housing affordability index came despite government measures to increase the supply of homes and cool speculation in the market.

"High property prices are still bothering Hongkongers this year, but the market may begin to decline next year," Chinese University economist Chong Tai-leung said.

READ MORE: 14 years to buy a flat: Quality of life in Hong Kong going down, shows survey

Market watchers have raised concerns an increase in the supply of new homes, coupled with a likely interest rate rise in the United States, would push down local home prices.

"Average home prices could shed up to 15 per cent in the first half of next year as property developers continue to offload inventory," said Dr Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu, director of the ACE Centre for Business and Economic Research, who was not involved in the study. "It's difficult to predict how the market will fare in the second half as there are too many uncertainties."

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah last week reaffirmed that the government wanted to maintain a stable property market, but did not say whether cooling measures would be scrapped.