The quality of life for youth in Hong Kong is at its highest level in five years, according to the latest MTR-CUHK Youth Quality of Life Index. However, two of the eight domains recorded a decline, including overall well-being, which measures general life satisfaction.
The index, released yesterday, consists of 28 indicators - measuring young people's relationship or stance with different factors in their lives - grouped into eight broad domains: physical health, psychological well-being, society, economics, education, politics, living environment and overall well-being. Of the eight domains, physical health and overall well-being declined while the rest increased.
The indicators are selected according to how well they cover, can be measured, represent and are relevant to the quality of life for young people in Hong Kong. A range of research methods were used to compile the data for analysis, including a telephone survey of 1,002 interviewees aged 15-24, and the use of government statistics.
Among the domains that have seen an improvement, education is at its best in the past five years. With an increase of 3.18 per cent over the last year thanks to an increase in opportunities for youth to receive higher education.
Psychological well-being also recorded a slight increase (0.62 per cent), though the "positive thinking" indicator, which is included within the well-being domain and defines whether one is positive about their future, remains at a low level.
"The youth aren't happy about their lives, and they don't feel very strongly about their future," says Professor Wong Hong, director of Chinese University of Hong Kong's Centre for Quality of Life.
Of the two domains that declined, physical health saw the more dramatic change, with a 7.45 per cent drop in the exercise participation indicator. In fact, 23.8 per cent of those surveyed said they don't exercise at all, while 19.7 per cent exercise for less than 30 minutes each week.
However, what caused the most alarm among the academics is young people's sense of disempowerment. A whooping 65.5 per cent of those surveyed feel that youth have very little impact on government policy, and 71 per cent think the policies can't help with young people's needs - especially in education, career and housing. "Young people aren't necessarily happy just because the government objectively invests more," says Wong, "the investment doesn't convert into youth's confidence for future."
But the government is not the only one at fault, Professor Ting Kwok-fai of the department of Sociology pointed out. Social services participation has dropped by 5.5 per cent compared to last year, and is at its lowest in five years. "Your participation could make a change to your community," says Ting. "It may be far from what a change in policies can do, but the sense of fulfilment can empower you."
"We hope the government can do more to involve the youth in local communities...to inspire them to think about how they can help improve the society," added Wong.
The index is sponsored by the MTR Corporation and was first introduced in 2013.