I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…
Mind the Gap
Our city can boast many superlatives – most expensive housing rental market, largest collection of skyscrapers and highest per-capita orange consumption to name a few. One achievement to be more embarrassed about though, is the fact that the city of superlatives has the widest income gap of any other rich nation.
While Gini coefficients are by no means a perfect way of gauging equality, the UN measurement has shown a steadily broadening gap between rich and poor since the 90s. Financial crisis or not, Forbes magazine says HK’s richest are 65 per cent wealthier than last year, just as the poor have inevitably gotten poorer with 1.33 now living below the city’s poverty line.
Older residents who lived through the sixties know that folks can only be pushed so far before civil unrest emerges. The failure of ‘trickle down’ economics has not gone unnoticed by young people either. Even graduates are finding themselves stuck in their $18.94/hr jobs at KFC. They know they will not see the same job security as their parents, plus they’ve a billion or so mainlanders to compete against. Throw in a sense of powerlessness with a government offering little in terms of social welfare, and you have what the media dubs the ‘post-80s’ movement.
Despite political thinkers and NGOs warning of an inequality time bomb, the only gap our government will confess to a communication deficit. Tsang’s only response to young dissenters has been to admit that LEGCO is a bit crap with new media. Somehow, disillusionment with the rich political elite is down to them not being on Facebook and Twitter. Well Donald, we think you’re dreaming if you reckon the same old message sent via new technology will have any more impact. If deprivation is the parent of revolution and crime, our unelected leaders would be wise to bypass the tweeting and do a little more listening!