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A fair number of Hong Kongers are unhappy. Of course, dissatisfaction and unhappiness are not nation-specific or regional issues—every locale has different problems.
That being said, exploring the reasons why a country or region’s citizenry is distraught can help governments and individuals alike become aware of the issues and prevent or alleviate them.
Whether you’re a Hong Konger wishing to know more about the regional environment or a curious foreigner, you may find this article helpful. Continue reading to learn more about the reasons why Hong Kongers are unhappy.
Why are Hong Kongers Unhappy?
The reasons for Hong Kongers’ unhappiness can be traced to three major factors: overworking (most work over 41 hrs/wk), income inequality (with a long-frozen minimum wage), and political tensions (with Beijing).
These reasons may have arisen as a result of the region’s culture, history, and current affairs. Let’s discuss these factors in more detail.
Overworking in Hong Kong
Hong Kong undeniably has one of the biggest and most successful economies in the world. International and local companies flood the cities, with corporations registering and launching at a rapid pace as well.
Sadly, this success comes at the cost of Hong Kongers. According to multiple surveys, a majority of the people in the region work over 41 hours per week, the third-highest in Asia-Pacific.
According to AIA Hong Kong, full-time employees work an average of 45 hours per week, while other research found that other workers put in around 50 hours.
This amount of work increases stress and can significantly affect their mental health, as workers will often have to sacrifice sleep, recreation, and exercise.
Being overworked can compromise work-life balance, and the World Health Organization and International Labour Organization attribute working long hours as one of the primary causes of increasing mortality rates in the Asia-Pacific.
We can also take a look at reports to see just how much Hong Kongers want to have a healthy work-life balance. Randstad, an HR consultancy company, conducted surveys about the state of the workforce in the SAR.
According to Randstad’s reports, 45% of Hong Kongers would rather be jobless than unhappy at work, and 48% said that they would resign from their jobs if those jobs inhibited them from enjoying their lives.
A majority of respondents also said that their personal life is more important than their work life. However, the circumstances of one’s employment are not always under their control.
Income Inequality and High Costs of Living in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world, with a high cost of living. Despite being one of the richest regions in the world, only a minority of the population can afford to ride yachts or relax in condominiums.
Combined with inflation and price hikes all over the world, the high cost of living can be quite encumbering for residents.
The minimum wage has been frozen at $37.5 per hour, or a monthly income of $6,000, limiting the people’s options even further.
At times, a minimum wage-earning citizen may not even make enough to cover the average costs of subsistence, let alone a decent serviced apartment.
|Minimum wage income in Hong Kong
|Average monthly expenses for a single person
|$6,000 – $8,000 (excluding rent)
|Average monthly rent of a one-bedroom apartment
|$16,000 (City)$11,000 (Outside of city centers)
Of course, not all jobs are the same and not all businesses pay strictly at the minimum wage. Regardless, you should already see a glimpse of how expensive it is to live in Hong Kong every month.
Not only are the cost of living and housing prices skyrocketing, but the income inequality within Hong Kong is also worsening.
Back in 1997, the median monthly household income of the top 10% of Hong Kong was worth about 17 times that of the poorest 10%.
Now, the richest 10% make up to 47 times more than the region’s bottom 10%, with the latter’s income shrinking by 29% since then.
Several UK and US surveys conducted within their respective countries found that managing the costs of housing, food, and energy are at the top of the primary causes of stress in their population. It would seem that Hong Kongers feel the same stress and pressure.
Political Tensions in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s population is virtually divided, with anti-Beijing protesters conducting the largest series of demonstrations in the history of the region in 2019.
The current political climate in Hong Kong can be highly stressful, even for those that are far away from the protests and demonstrations.
A research conducted by the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration found that over 10% of respondents experienced severe levels of stress, and more than 20% experiencing extreme depression.
A fourth of those surveyed also suffered from anxiety because of the political unrest.
They also found that social conflicts lasting more than a year could trigger various levels of post-traumatic stress and distress, regardless of their political engagement.
Despite the worsening mental health conditions of the population, not everyone can get the help they need. Due to social stigma, Hong Kongers are averse to seeking help from psychologists and other mental health professionals.
The Situation of Mental Health in Hong Kong
Unlike in other countries, the people of Hong Kong cannot easily access mental health support, mainly because of the stigma surrounding the topic.
According to Mind HK, 41% of Hong Kongers consider “lack of self-discipline” the main cause of mental illness, and a majority believe that they will be penalized at work for talking about experiencing mental health challenges.
These findings are unsettling, as the number of children and adolescents becoming psychiatric patients have been increasing. The rates of suicide among youth and elderly alike have also gone up.
The political climate, combined with soaring prices, workplace stress, and the Covid-19 pandemic, unsurprisingly have a great impact on the happiness of the region’s general population.
If these conditions continue and unless the region’s government and population find a way to deal with these issues together, Hong Kongers may not see a change in their happiness index anytime soon.