Call it a hamburger index or anything you want. The main thing is it helps measure purchasing power parity in different wet markets in Hong Kong.
Thanks to the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, we have a fairly good idea about how much a typical Hong Kong family of three pays for a dinner.
More importantly, we know how much the price has risen in the past three years.
The “two dishes one soup” index shows that the average price of a dinner consisting of steamed fish (grass carp) with preserved cabbage, fried beef with choi sum (flowering cabbage) and tomato and potato pork soup, is HK$108.20 (US$13.92) this quarter, up 28 per cent since the index was launched in 2011.
A detailed look at the key components shows flowering cabbage has risen 20 per cent to HK$13.06 per kilogram, offset by grass carp which has fallen 12.6 per cent.
That explains why the cost of a dinner is almost the same this quarter as this time last year.
The data also shows district parity, in which the price of a typical dinner in the Sha Tin Center Street wet market is the most expensive at HK$115.50.
In contrast, the most affordable dinner can be found in Yeung Uk Road in Tsuen Wan at HK$97.20.
Among the cheapest wet markets are North Point and Wan Chai in Hong Kong, Kwun Tong, Ngai Chi Wan (Kowloon Bay), Sham Shui Po and Yau Tsim Mong in Kowloon and Tseung Kwan O, Tsing Yi, and Tung Chung in the New Territories.
The increase in the cost of a dinner outstrips a 19 per cent rise in wages.
Average household income was HK$23,800 in the third quarter compared with HK$20,000 in the same period in 2011.
That is why unions have been demanding (but not always succeeding) a double-digit wage increase to catch up with inflation.
It should be noted that the rate of increase of a dinner in fast food outlets such as Maxim and McDonald’s is probably much higher because they pay commercial rent.
An average dinner in Tsui Wah comes to more HK$100 per person, Fairwood nearly HK$50 and Cafe de Coral, which is promoting a daily special lunch, HK$30, the hourly minimum for a daily wage earner.
For the average family, that works out to at least HK$3,246 a month for dinner alone. But there’s also lunch, breakfast and the rent to to pay.
(The cheapest private rental flat I can find in my Tseung Kwan O neighbourhood is HK$14,000 a month. My agent tells me it would be taken in three days because of the housing shortage.)
Any hopes of government subsidies are looking increasingly dim.
When Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his wife visited the Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo 10 days ago, they bought HK$3,093 worth of goods, down from their previous purchase of HK$5,400.
I’m sure someone will come up with an index to measure government spending on the poor.
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