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Many friends of my age told me that their sons and daughters feel disappointed by Hong Kong because opportunities here are fewer than some years ago. I asked for further elaboration and came to realise that my dear old friends are comparing their own experience when they first entered the job market more than 35 years ago with the contemporary situation and came to the conclusion that the pay is now too low and the property prices too high.
There may be an element of truth in this accusation. I recalled that my first job was in Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) as an economist. I started in June 1978 and was then earning HK$3,080 a month. At around that time, the first phase of Tai Koo Shing was on pre-completion sale and my vague recollection was that a Tai Koo Shing apartment of around 500 square feet was then sold at around HK$250,000, which is equivalent to about 80 months of my salary at that time. Assuming that a fresh graduate is now earning HK$20,000 a month, 80 month salary is only HK$1.6 million, definitely far short of buying a 500 square feet apartment in HK Island.
However, the general price level has not gone up that much. I recalled that during my days in HKTDC whenever the Chief Economist was on leave, I went down with my colleagues (it is o.k. to talk about this now since all of them have already retired) to the decent restaurant in the basement of Connaught Centre (now re-named Jardine House) to have an English breakfast and that cost me HK$20. So my salary was equivalent to only 154 English breakfasts. A comparable contemporary example is breakfast in Cafe Landmark, which is slightly more upmarket than the then basement restaurant in Connaught Centre, which cost HK$115 plus 10% service charge. So a fresh graduate now earning HK$20,000 a month can afford 158 English breakfasts in Cafe Landmark, slightly better off than 38 years ago when I was a fresh graduate.
My advice to my old friends is that the situation is not that bad, a big boom in HK is coming on the horizon, let's look forward and forget the past, no worry, be happy.
Esmond Lee, Senior Advisor, Financial Services Development Council, Hong Kong
Esmond LEE Kin Ying has been working in the Hong Kong Financial Services Development Council (FSDC) as Senior Advisor since August 2016. Before joining the FSDC, he was working in the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) as Executive Director responsible for financial infrastructure. Before joining the HKMA in 1993, he was working in the Hong Kong Government as Principal Economist.