Young university graduates in Hong Kong are earning just HK$1,800 more than their predecessors did 20 years ago, lagging way behind inflation and increases in tuition fees and property prices over the same period, according to the latest figures.
Data from the Census and Statistics Department shows a 20 per cent rise in median income – compared with a 45 per cent increase in the Composite Consumer Price Index, 75 per cent in tuition fees and a near-tripling of private property prices.
Employers could be less willing to make attractive job offers possibly because of a mismatch between market demand for university graduates and dramatic growth in their numbers, Simon Lee Siu-po, assistant dean of undergraduate studies at Chinese University’s Business School, said.
“I believe the growing number of undergraduates in Hong Kong over the decades is the main reason,” Lee said.
“Youngsters nowadays, compared to the last generation, are less skilful and are reluctant to learn,” he said. “Many employers are disappointed by the young generation.”
Employers eyeing global expansion would rather hire mainland Chinese graduates who had a better command of Putonghua and English, Lee said. More importantly, he said, they tended to have broadened their horizons.
Lee predicted the slow income increment would continue in the coming years and urged youngsters to better equip themselves.
According to the department, tertiary graduates aged 20 to 24 earned a median monthly income of HK$10,800 in 2014, compared with HK$9,000 in 1994.
The Composite Consumer Price Index rose even more over those two decades, from 82.7 to 120.2.
For example, a single-trip MTR ticket between Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai now costs HK$10, 30 per cent more than 20 years ago.
A university degree that would cost HK$24,000 in 1994 required tuition fees of HK$42,100 in 2014.
But the higher fees do not guarantee the degree holder a better life.
The private property price index hit a record high of 303.6 in July, 267 per cent more than the 113.8 in July 1994, Rating and Valuation Department statistics show.
Palatial Coast in Tuen Mun recorded the lowest price per sq ft among July transactions, according to property agency Midland Realty.
However, a 670 sq ft flat would still cost HK$5.6 million, or HK$8,358 per sq ft.
Even if youngsters skipped overseas holidays and other forms of leisure to save up for their homes, those who earned just HK$10,800 a month would still have to set aside their entire incomes for nearly 13 years to afford a downpayment.
Ho Ka-yin, a third-year journalism student and vice-president of the University of Hong Kong’s students’ union, found the figures disappointing.
“A university degree has become less valuable. Teaching part time is probably more lucrative than a full-time job,” she said.
“Anyhow, buying a flat in the future sounds like a dream to me. I can barely survive with so little money. I guess I will still be relying on my parents for a few years.”
The government has been trying over the decades to turn Hong Kong into a regional education hub. Figures from the University Grants Committee showed 12,252 undergraduates studied under UGC-funded programmes in 1994-95. The number rose 50 per cent to 18,459 in 2013-14.
news source & image credits: scmp.com