Wages and job prospects of Hong Kong’s visually impaired not rising proportionately with education levels, study finds
Survey findings show worrying trend of median income for those with tertiary education being even lower than city’s overall mark for workers with lower secondary education
Visually impaired people in Hong Kong are attaining higher education levels, but there has been no commensurate increase in their salaries and job opportunities, a study has found.
The research by Chinese University and the Hong Kong Blind Union, a first in the city on employment prospects of this segment in society, centred on visually impaired respondents who were 18 and above between March and April.
A total of 136 questionnaires with valid responses were received, of which 70 per cent said the respondent attained tertiary education, with 45 per cent having a bachelor’s degree or above.
The survey found only 43 per cent of respondents were employed full time, with 18 per cent unemployed – a figure 6.4 times the overall unemployment rate in the city.
Of the 57 per cent who were not employed full time, 60 per cent said they had not been able to find a full-time job.
“They have the intention to find a full-time job but could not do so,” Phyllis Wong King-shui, an assistant professor at Chinese University’s department of social work, said. “This is a discouraging trend.”
In terms of salary, the monthly median for those polled was HK$11,000, compared with the city’s mark of HK$16,800 (US$2,100).
Another worrying find from the survey was that the median monthly income of respondents with a tertiary education was only HK$12,000 – even lower than the city’s median for those with only a lower secondary education, at HK$13,300.
The city’s median for those with a tertiary education is HK$26,400.
“Even for those with high education levels, their jobs are mainly clerical, sales or service-oriented,” Wong said. “This shows that [better] education did not provide them with more choices.”
The poll also found that 45 per cent of respondents took more than six months to find a job, with 16 per cent taking more than two years.
Ken, 31, who prefers to be known only by his first name and has almost lost all his vision, said he took about seven years to land a full-time job, despite graduating with a business degree from Britain in 2010.
“I was interviewing for a clerical job back when I still had some vision in my eyes and the employer asked me whether I would always take sick leave,” he recalled.
“I was unhappy to be questioned like that as having issues with my vision did not mean I had other health problems.”
In the years since, he also tried for many other jobs such as being a clothes washer, but in that case, he was told after two days that he was unsuitable for the physical work and dark environment.
When he approached an organisation helping those with visual impairment, he was told to work as a masseur.
With help from the Hong Kong Blind Union, Ken is now working in a sales job at a multinational IT company.
He said he became more confident and his parents worried less after he was employed full time.
The union called on the government to take the lead in hiring more people with disabilities and come up with policies, such as tax incentives, to encourage the business sector to do likewise.
Jason Ho Ka-leung, the union’s financial secretary, citing Legislative Council research, said there was an increase of 11,000 civil servants between 2006 and 2016. But the number of disabled civil servants dropped from 3,256 to 3,230 in the same period.