Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LegCo Secretariat releases Research Brief on "Social mobility in Hong Kong"

The following is issued on behalf of the Legislative Council Secretariat:

     The Legislative Council Secretariat (the Secretariat) today (January 12) released a Research Brief on "Social mobility in Hong Kong".

     Recent statistics and research studies have revealed limited opportunities for people moving higher on the social ladder.  While sustained economic growth is the key to provide earnings mobility to a society, Hong Kong's annual average GDP growth during 1997-2013 almost halved that in 1978-1996. On educational mobility, the recent expansion of post-secondary education places has been concentrated on the self-financed sub-degree sector.  Yet, higher educational attainment has not led to better job prospects, with an increasing share of people engaged in lower-paid associate professional jobs, and to some extent, service and sales jobs.  Furthermore, there was a statistically significant correlation between the socio-economic status of parents and their children in 2008, suggesting low inter-generational social mobility. Some key statistical information is listed below:

a) the median monthly employment earnings of the overall workforce in Hong Kong surged by a total of 139 per cent in real terms during 1976-1996, but the growth rate moderated to a mere 14 per cent during 1997-2013;

b) around 47.2 per cent of workers stayed in the same quintile of earnings ladder over the 10-year period of 1998-2008. Over the same period, 54.1 per cent of workers in the lowest income quintile experienced no mobility along the earnings ladder after 10 years of work;

c) the average flat price for a small residential unit surged by a total of 188 per cent during 2006-2013, whereas the median monthly household income increased by 30 per cent over the same period;

d) the expansion of post-secondary education opportunities has been almost exclusively in the two-year sub-degree programmes provided by the self-finance sector. During the academic years of 2000/01-2009/10, the annual supply of self-financed full-time first-year sub-degree places (24 084 places) outpaced that of publicly funded first-year first degree places (3 580 places);

e) the share of people taking up higher-skilled jobs (managerial, professional and associate professional jobs) in total workforce increased visibly from 23.2 per cent in 1991 to 39.0 per cent in 2011. Yet much of the improvement since the early 2000s was fuelled by the increase in the share of people working as associate professionals from 10.3 per cent in 1991 to 21.1 per cent in 2011, implying limited job opportunities for higher-paid managerial and professional jobs;

f) the share of employed youths aged 15-24 working as lower-wage service and sales workers increased from 21 per cent in 1991 to 34 per cent in 2011. A similar downward occupational mobility was observed from a recent study showing that youths aged 15-29 with degree education were increasingly driven to clerical and service/sales jobs during 2001-2011; and

g) a study by the Hong Kong Institute of Education found that in 2011,the university enrolment rate of youths aged 19-20 living in rich families was 3.7 times that of those living in poverty.

     At present, the lack of new growth engines has restrained earnings growth and social mobility. There have been calls for Hong Kong to adopt an effective strategy to diversify and restructure its economy, thereby creating more higher-paid and higher-skilled jobs to enhance earnings and occupational mobility.

     The subject of social mobility was recently discussed at the Council meetings of December 17, 2014 and January 7, 2015.

     This is the second issue of the Research Brief for 2014-2015 as prepared by the Secretariat's Research Office of the Information Services Division with a view to enhancing information support for Members. It is a concise summary aiming at explaining a subject matter which may be of interest to Members and the general public.

     The Research Brief is now available on the Legislative Council Website at

Ends/Monday, January 12, 2015
Issued at HKT 17:31


Print this page