Income disparity hits record high in Hong Kong

While Hong Kong returns to pre-pandemic productivity levels, income for the lowest-earning employees is nearly 60 times less than the wealthy.
By: | September 21, 2023

The income gap between the poorest Hong Kong citizens and the wealthiest elite is the largest one in the city in decades, with the wealthy making almost 60 times more than the lowest earners in the first quarter of 2023.

Q1 of 2023 saw the median monthly income of the poorest 10% of households in Hong Kong at HKD $2,300 (USD $294.07), 57.7% less than the wealthiest 10% of households who are seeing monthly household incomes of HKD $132,600 (USD $16,953.80), shared Oxfam Hong Kong, a non-governmental organisation focusing on alleviating global poverty.

Citing data from the Census and Statistics Department, the organisation shared that more than 1.36 million people were living poverty in Hong Kong. Of that number, 210,000 were employed, with more than 80% of the group working in low-skilled jobs in industries such as retail, accommodation, and food service. 

Karlina Tsang, director general of Oxfam Hong Kong, said, “Despite society returning to normal, the problem of income inequality is becoming increasingly serious. The slow recovery of low-income families has sounded alarm bells for the whole society.”

The NGO attributed the widening gap partly to the loss of low-skilled jobs after the pandemic, as well as the digitalisation of some workplaces during COVID-19, causing some to lose their jobs. 

READ MORE: Singapore disputes interpretation of minimum income standards

To curb the widening income gap, the NGO suggested that the Hong Kong government adjust the minimum wage annually to catch up with inflation and offer better income protection, as well as attract new talent. They also suggested the government promote the concept of a “living wage” so employees can cover basic needs such as accommodation and urgent medical fees; and improve childcare services so that women from low-income families can join the workforce, reported the Hong Kong Free Press.