One in six HK university graduates ends up in unskilled job; students share their thoughts

Study also find current university graduates take home less pay than graduates did 30 years ago

Wong Tsui-kai |

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Fresh university graduates take home less pay than grads did 30 years ago.

A degree in Hong Kong no longer guarantees a decent income, with one in six university graduates taking on low-paid, unskilled work, a study has found.

Fresh university graduates are taking home less pay than they did 30 years ago, according to the study released on Monday, which analysed official data collected as far back as 1987.

The study, by public policy group New Century Forum, showed the median monthly starting salary of a university graduate in 1987 was HK$20,231. In 2017, it was HK$14,395.

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Meanwhile, the median salary of employees with university qualifications has fallen from HK$32,133 a month in 2007 to HK$28,790 in 2017.

Some Hong Kong teens are worried how these trends will affect them.

“I am honestly worried about not being paid well in the future,” says Eunice Yip, 18, of Shue Yan University. “Salaries don’t keep up with inflation rates any more and this is why I am worried. If our salaries aren’t going to go up, I don’t think we’ll be able to make a living.”

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However, others say that future pay doesn’t influence their decision to go to university.

“I see going to university as a means of maturing as a learner,” says KGV’s Natalie Kainz, 17. “As for being paid well, I know that while I’m at university I will be able to create opportunities for myself to gain the experience that I need to join the workforce. University is no guarantee of a good pay cheque but working hard will hopefully get me to where I need to be.”

Researcher Chan Wai-keung, from Polytechnic University’s College of Professional and Continuing Education, said the drop in graduate salaries was partly due to more people getting a university education, meaning there is more competition.

According to official statistics, the number of students taking publicly funded undergraduate programmes increased by 37 per cent between the 2011-12 academic year to 2017-18.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge