More in Hong Kong want to emigrate than in Singapore, Shanghai: Poll

Pedestrians walk and jog along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade as the Hong Kong skyline stands across Victoria Harbor.
Pedestrians walk and jog along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade as the Hong Kong skyline stands across Victoria Harbor.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Three cities, three outlooks.

And it seems that Hong Kongers are the most gloomy about their homes, compared with Singaporeans and Shanghainese.

A recent survey conducted by the city's top policy think-tank Civic Exchange has found that nearly half of Hong Kongers would emigrate if they have a choice.

Singapore fared better, though a substantial minority - 20 per cent - would up sticks if they could.


Shanghai retains the greatest appeal for its people: Only 17 per cent would leave.

Whether people want to stay or go strongly correlates with perceptions of whether their home has become a better or worse place to live in, according to the survey findings released this month.

The poll conducted between last August and January this year questioned 1,500 respondents in each of the three cities. Singapore and Shanghai have often been pitted as potential rivals to Hong Kong as regional hubs.

A clear theme from the results: Hong Kongers are by far the unhappiest. An overwhelming majority - 70 per cent - say the city has become a worse place to live in. Their top concerns are: housing, followed by education and quality of government, and then medical care.

Co-author Carine Lai says the fact that quality of government is tied in second place is particularly worrying. "People don't focus on quality of government unless several issues have gone wrong and they point to the government as the common cause."

She adds: "The findings obviously point to a very serious dissatisfaction - something is not going right. Policymakers have to improve their ability to meet people's needs and what they care about."

In Singapore, the top concern is medical care, followed by work and business opportunities, and then housing. Transport ranks surprisingly low, in the seventh spot, despite widespread unhappiness over multiple MRT train breakdowns.

Just 9 per cent in Singapore and 11 per cent in Shanghai say that life has become worse. Huge majorities - 87 per cent and 83 per cent respectively - believe their cities are a good place for children to grow up. About one-third of Hong Kongers feel this way.

But more are doubtful about what it would be like to retire in these cities - an important issue, given that Singapore and Hong Kong in particular are grappling with ageing populations, says Ms Lai. More than one-third in both Singapore (39 per cent) and Shanghai (37 per cent) say their cities are not a good place to retire in, while 61 per cent in Hong Kong have that view.

Li Xueying

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'More in HK want to emigrate than in S'pore, Shanghai: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe