New study shows that Hong Kong’s university grads earned 20 per cent more – 20 years ago

New study shows that Hong Kong’s university grads earned 20 per cent more – 20 years ago

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Students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong celebrate their graduation.
Students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong celebrate their graduation.
Photo: Ricky Chung/SCMP

The median monthly income of fresh university graduates has dropped by almost 20 per cent in the past 20 years, while Hong Kong has grown twice as rich in the same time. The city’s gross domestic product (GDP) has increased from HK$931 billion in 1993 to HK$2 trillion in 2013.

Two groups monitoring public policy – New Forum and New Youth Forum – looked into data from the Census and Statistics Department on the salaries of university graduates. They found the monthly salary for fresh graduates in 1993 was HK$13,158, but it had dropped to HK$12,452 for those graduating in 1998.

It dipped even further to HK$11,148 in 2003, and remained almost unchanged at HK$11,759 by 2008. But in 2013, it was only HK$10,860 – that’s 17 per cent less than it was way back in 1993.

“One reason is that the number of university places has increased a lot over the years,” said New Forum council member, Chan Wai-keung.

According to the report by the two groups, only 10.6 per cent of young people in 1993 obtained a university degree. That figure has since risen, to 47 per cent in 2013.

The number of skilled jobs in the city had risen by 66,500 between 1993 and 2013. But the number of university graduates that could fill these positions went up by 699,600 over that period. Lots of graduates in specific sectors meant employers did not feel it necessary to offer competitive salaries.

“Some people who graduate with a bachelor’s in business administration may end up working as a general office worker instead of taking up a managerial role that they were taught for at university,” Chan said.

He feels the government should focus on providing more opportunities in vocational education as Hong Kong needs many such professionals,  for example, in the construction industry.

Separately, the report said Hong Kong’s housing prices skyrocketed %160.6 per cent over the two decades, and rents increased 58.6 per cent.

Cliff Tang Wing-chun, convenor of New Youth Forum, said it was tough for graduates to buy a flat because property prices had gone through the roof while salaries were worse than they were 20 years ago. He said the government should increase the housing supply to stabilise prices.

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