Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Trying to Survive in Hong Kong

There's a lot of foot traffic on the streets, but who's spending?
As if we need more proof it's getting more expensive for people to live in Hong Kong when their salaries aren't keeping up with inflation -- a latest study says households are in nearly twice as much debt as they used to be 10 years ago.

The Legislative Council research division released its latest survey that found grassroots families are earning less than what they spend every month, and that the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) that employees and employers contribute to monthly is not enough to retire on.

in 2005, the average debt carried by each household consisting of mortgages, credit card advances and personal loans was HK$349,100. That amount has almost doubled to HK$646,100 last year.

Overall the outstanding balance of household loans was HK$1,594 billion, 70 percent of which are mortgages, more than twice the amount a decade ago.

Try buying a matchbox and paying it off before retirement
While people try to save for emergencies like unemployment and illness, the report says, "in the face of slowing economic growth, slackening social mobility, continued inflation and escalating property cost in Hong Kong, many lower- to middle-income families may not be able to do so".

According to the latest data from the Census and Statistics Department, the report estimated the average household expenditure in 2015 was HK$27,600 per  month, a 46 percent rise from a decade ago.

Lower-income households aren't able to save as much these days; those with incomes of HK$11,000 to HK$16,000 a month could barely cover basic expenses, having to fork out another HK$400 from their savings.

This contrasts with those making HK$61,000 to HK$85,000 who are able to save HK$23,700 a month.

Housing makes up the biggest monthly expenditure at 36 percent. Flat prices and rentals have surged by 223 percent and 100 percent respectively between 2005 and 2015, forcing many to resort to taking out bigger mortgages.

Retired couples spent between HK$6,600 to HK$38,300 per month, while their MPF only averaged HK$144,000, which covers only less than two years of spending in some cases. Relatives would have to chip in around HK$4,500 a month just to keep up.

Seniors don't have enough money to be self-sufficient
We're hoping the government is paying attention to this study -- this is why Hong Kong people are frustrated and unhappy. Employers are getting away with not paying their employees what they are worth with the excuse that the economy is bad, but then it's harder to afford even basic necessities to get through the month.

This study shows that one has to have bought a flat and paid off the mortgage before they have retired. But in many cases, because the price of flats keep going up, people may be in their late 30s or 40s before they can afford one, and they may or may not have paid it off within 25 to 30 years.

And there is also the issue of how big a flat they can afford... who wants to live in a matchbox flat of 152 square feet for over 20 years as they try to pay off the mortgage?

The income gap is getting worse and worse here even though the economy is slowing down, things aren't "cheap". We are all still beholden to landlords who seem to live on another planet when it comes to charging rent.

But the government isn't going to impose rent controls anytime soon so we are still going to have to pay more for every service or item we buy because of greedy landlords.

People can't even aspire to bigger and better things because they are just trying to keep their head above water.

How does this give people here any hope that things are going to get better? A good chunk of them are just barely surviving...

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