Monday, 8 April 2013

The Next Generation's Hard Knock Life

Is Hong Kong a city of opportunities or oppression for young people?
Yesterday when I returned to Hong Kong from Danang, I caught a taxi home from the Airport Express in Central. When we were approaching my destination, the taxi driver started talking to me, asking me where I went on my trip and I explained Vietnam was nice, though the staff not so bright.

Then he started saying how he'd like to have a holiday. Originally he and his family were thinking of going to Taiwan for a few days for eating, but the plane tickets during Easter holidays were very expensive. Then he added that his son would be graduating in May so they would wait until then for a break.

He then began his worried rant, saying his son was 22 years old and wondered if he would be able to get a job. "He studied management, but I don't know if he's good enough to get a job."

I tried to be diplomatic and said that if he worked hard, he would be fine. But this was not enough to placate him.

"Kids these days are very lazy. They don't want to work hard. All they want to do is stay in school longer to delay working. I started working when I was 17 years old until now -- I'm 61 and going to retire soon," he said.

He took out his wallet and showed me a small passport picture of his son, a young guy with spiky hair.

"I'm from a different generation where we had no choice but to work hard," he said with some resignation. "I don't know how  he's going to survive."

There are some young people who are keen to succeed and eager to work hard, but there are a number of the next generation who don't look like they want to carve out a career for themselves let alone find a job.

Granted these days it's getting harder, with more graduates flooding the market, starting salaries are still low 10 years later and even finding a decent first job is hard. Many are stuck in retail jobs from working on convenience stores to fast food joints, manning information desks in shopping malls or doing really menial work that doesn't require a university degree.

But by the same token, you have to start somewhere...

That taxi driver isn't the only parent worrying. How did these parents, who have worked so hard in their lives, raise children who have become indifferent to finding their own career path?

Is it because their offspring saw how hard their parents worked that it turned them off? Or they felt that hard work doesn't necessarily pay off? Or is it because their parents indulged them because of guilt and so they don't see the need to work hard?

In any event it is worrying to see many of the younger generation not interested in working hard or being ambitious because that is what has built Hong Kong to what it is.

In the meantime these hard-working parents need to tone down their expectations -- their children already know what is expected of them and don't need the constant reminders. And the kids need to buckle down and find a job because that's part of life whether they like it or not.

I am very grateful for being able to quickly find a career I learned on the job and has fulfilled my life in many ways. If I was a young person today I would probably be just as daunted by the employment situation. But I would still be determined to find a job just to start and hopefully move on to better things, step by step.

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