Hong Kong wealth gap at highest in 45 years

HONG KONG • The wealth gap in Hong Kong is at its highest in nearly 50 years, with living conditions fuelling discontent as the city prepares to mark two decades under Chinese rule.

A report released yesterday by the census and statistics department said sky-high prices and the cost of living outstrip many ordinary people's salaries, with apartments becoming increasingly cramped and generations of families forced to share.

In its five-yearly report, the department applies the Gini co-efficient to measure wealth inequality. A Gini figure of zero indicates perfect equality, while 1.0 would be a society in which one person had all the wealth.

The census department said Hong Kong's figure climbed from 0.537 in 2011 to 0.539 last year, the highest since 1971.

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The department also said poverty alleviation and support for the disadvantaged were "at the top of the government agenda".

But lawmaker and social worker Fernando Cheung said the result showed life had not improved since the handover by colonial power Britain to China in 1997.

"The Gini signifies that the economic development of the past 20 years has not helped narrow the wealth gap or make our society more just," Mr Cheung said, describing major industries as controlled by a handful of tycoons.

A string of high-profile graft trials has also led to heightened public suspicion over cosy ties between politicians and the business world.

"With limited opportunities and high costs in housing and other aspects of life, it makes the life of the younger generation very hard," Mr Cheung said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'Hong Kong wealth gap at highest in 45 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe