Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Generational Divide

Many fresh graduates have high hopes, then see the reality of the job market
Government figures show that fresh graduates in Hong Kong are only earning HK$1,800 more than those who finished tertiary education 20 years ago. That means today's university graduates aged 20-24 are earning a median income of HK$10,800 ($1,393) in 2014 compared to HK$9,000 in 1994.

Data from the Census and Statistics Department show a 20 percent rise in median income, which compares to a 45 percent increase in the Composite Consumer Price Index, 75 percent in tuition fees, and nearly triple of property prices.

Simon Lee Siu-po, assistant dean of undergraduate studies at Chinese University's Business School says employers could be less willing to make attractive job offers because he believes there are so many more university graduates each year.

All families want their children to do better than the previous generation, and many believe education is the way out. However the sheer numbers of graduates each year means a flood in the labour market, thus lowering the value of a university degree.

Some employers prefer to hire graduates from the mainland
Lee then took a dig at young people today, saying, "Youngsters nowadays, compared to the last generation, are less skillful and are reluctant to learn. Many employers are disappointed by the young generation."

He even went so far as to say employers would rather hire mainland graduates because their English and Putonghua skills were much better than locals.


This touched of a maelstrom of comments, at first illustrating how wages have not kept up with inflation at all, but also how it was practically impossible for young people to save with salaries that are so low.

Then the issue of young people not as hardworking as the previous generation is a perennial comment older people like to say. While many of us may have come across students or young people we don't think are as diligent as they should be, there are many others who maybe putting in more hours than we know of.

Nevertheless, many employers are frustrated that a lot of young people believe they are not being paid what they are worth and so they decide their own work output. It's an interesting perspective that employers haven't encountered before, but it is kind of a chicken-and-egg conundrum -- bosses don't think they can give pay raises unless the employee can demonstrate their worthiness, while employees think, pay me better and then I'll do more work.

But perhaps the last problem of employers looking to expand overseas are choosing to hire more mainland graduates than local ones hits a sensitive spot, particularly with the Occupy movement last year, as well as nativism that is ongoing.

Part of the problem is that students have been screwed around by the Education Department, using them as guinea pigs to see which language is the best medium of instruction. Before 1997 it was English, and then it was Cantonese and now it's becoming more Putonghua in the classroom.

If you keep changing the regulations, students get very confused and don't really learn much of anything effectively. Is it surprising that this has impacted graduates' skill sets to help them land a job?

I would hazard to guess that the majority of fresh graduates are keen to make a good start on their careers, and like us before, will find it's not that easy to find a job, or discover there's no such thing as a dream job.

They just want to be given a chance to prove themselves and from there it's how determined they are to make something of their lives and to contribute to society.

Granted the economy is slow these days, we should at least give young people the opportunity to demonstrate their Lion Rock spirit. They may not have the exact skills needed, but if they have the right attitude, then why not give them a chance? They are our future, the city's future.

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