Hong Kong

The PSEHK website provides details of two major research projects focussing on deprivation and social exclusion in Hong Kong.  The 'Poverty and Social Exclu­sion in Hong Kong (PSEHK)' research project is based on a detailed survey of living standards in Hong Kong. This survey, conducted in 2013, investigated the public's attitudes to necessities to set min­i­mum stan­dards of liv­ing and then investigated those who fell below these minimum standards (see Con­sen­sual method). See more below.

This research has been followed up with a longitudinal study, 'Social Disadvantages, Well-being and Health in Hong Kong (SDWH-HK)'. In 2014/15 and then again in 2015/16, respondents from the original survey were re-interviewed with the aim of measuring the trends in poverty and deprivation and assessing the impact of policy initiatives.  See more under 'Hong Kong - phase 2' in the left hand menu.

PSE-HK 2013 living standards survey

The 2013 PSE-HK survey first investigated whether people viewed a range of items and activities as necessities of life, items that could make up a mininimum living standard. The questionnaire used was developed from focus groups, representing people from different socio-economic status, to ensure that the items were appropriate for life in contemporary Hong Kong (see here on the PSEHK website for details). The survey found clear evidence that the Hong Kong public supports a relativist view of poverty. The public accepts that a minimum standard of living should go beyond basic needs and should reflect contemporary standards (e.g. ‘a computer with internet connection at home’) and also include participation in social customs and activities. 
The survey then asked respondents whether they had the items or activities and if they did not have it whether this was because they could not afford it. The research team defined deprivation as those who lacked because they could not afford it item and activity wanted by over 60% of the population. In this way, the research identifies how many people in Hong Kong fell below what is an acceptable standard of living. All the numbers and percentages below refer to the population as a whole (adult or children) and include only those who lack items and activities because they cannot afford them.  

It found:

  •  21% of people in Hong Kong are living in poverty when they have a low income and a low standard of living (in terms of deprivation).
  • This means that they are going without items and activities regarded as  customary by Hong Kong society. For example, 240,000 of the adult population (4% of adults) cannot afford three meals a day, meat/fish  (fresh/frozen)/vegetarian equivalent every other day, or fresh fruit or  vegetables every day.
  • 1.2 million of the adult population (20% of all adults) go without at least  one social and family activity such as taking part in celebrations (e.g.  Chinese New Year).
  • Child poverty is a serious problem in Hong Kong: more than one in four  children (27% of all children) live in poverty according to today’s standards.
  • 16,000 children live in families who cannot afford to feed them properly.
  • 126,000 children (12% of children) do not have at least one school  learning-related item and activity, such as a computer with internet  connection at home; participation in extra-curricular activities (e.g. sports,  music); and tutorial lessons after school.
  • More than 50% of households report problems with their accommodation.
  • Seven percent of households report 5 or more problems. The most  frequently reported problem is damp walls, ceilings and floors (60%),  followed by a shortage of space (41%), and an inability to maintain an  adequate temperature throughout the year (29%).
  • More than a million adults (19% of all adults) felt that their health had an  impact on their financial situation in the previous year.
  • Financial insecurity is a widespread problem in Hong Kong. The survey  found that 880,000 households (37%) cannot afford an unexpected  expense of HK$8,500 (e.g. relating to dental surgery, broken television).
  • Social exclusion is also widespread. For example, more than 430,000  households (18% of all households) use Accident & Emergency services  but consider the service poor. A further 230,000 households (10% of all  households) are excluded from the service because of unavailability,  inadequacy or affordability.
  • Significant numbers of the adult population are experiencing limited social  contact with either friends or family. For example, 2.2 million adults (37%  of adults) meet up with friends and family just monthly or less often. 
  • Almost one in four full-time employees are living in poverty. Though paid work is an important route out of poverty for the working-age population, it is not a guaranteed one.
The PSEHK website provides full details of mate­r­ial and social depri­va­tion in Hong Kong and the impact poverty has on people’s lives, prospects and well-​being. It pro­vides evi­dence as to the under­ly­ing causes of poverty and the key events in people’s lives that can leave them vul­ner­a­ble to poverty.

Below you can download:

  • The first report, ' Poverty and Social Exclusion in Hong Kong: First results from the 2013 Living Standards Survey' by  David Gordon (University of Bristol) Maggie Lau (City University of Hong Kong) Christina Pantazis (University of Bristol) Lea Lai (City University of Hong Kong), 2014. This report looks at attitudes to necessities, deprivation and poverty.
  • The second report, 'Social Exclusion in Hong Kong - Findings from the 2013 Living Standards Survey', Maggie Lau, David Gordon, Christina Pantazis,Eunju Kim, Lea Lai, Eileen Sutton, 2014. This report looks at social exclusion. 
  • The PSEHK annotated questionnaire with top level findings. (English language version) 

Launched in 2011, the project is led by Dr Maggie Lau, Assistant Professor of the Department of Social Science at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, and Professor David Gordon, Director of the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol. The project is funded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Coun­cil and the The research project aims were to:

  1. Improve the measurement of poverty, deprivation, social exclusion and standard of living in the Chinese context.
  2. Conduct policy-relevant analyses of interest to both the general public and government.

Read more about the project’s launch.  



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