Date
21 November 2017
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (second from right), Beijing liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming (left) and officials from Guangdong province launch an innovation hub for Hong Kong youth in Qianhai in Shenzhen in December. Photo: HKEJ
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (second from right), Beijing liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming (left) and officials from Guangdong province launch an innovation hub for Hong Kong youth in Qianhai in Shenzhen in December. Photo: HKEJ

Don’t feed youngsters with start-up dreams

The Occupy Central movement exposed the seriousness of the problems facing young people in Hong Kong.

The government has been trying hard to tackle these issues.

The remarks of executive councilor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun suggesting teachers and students get some training in the mainland were unpopular among the younger generation.

The easiest way to win the heart of young people is to help them set up their own business, in particular in the information technology and catering sectors.

The IT industry is obviously dominated by young people, and the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups has granted subsidies to young entrepreneurs in the catering industry for years.

In the last decade, up to 70 percent of the business proposals the federation received were about setting up a restaurant. The applicants were aged between 26 and 30, and half were college students.

The pro-establishment camp will hold an event April 9 to encourage young people to start their own businesses.

As many as 14 teams have been invited to set up street-side stores to sell electronic gadgets and food without having to pay rent.

At the event, professionals and members of the second generation of local tycoons’ families have been invited to share their experience in creating businesses.

Also, the government said in this year’s budget speech that it will set aside HK$300 million to support young entrepreneurs.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the Commission on Youth was consulted on the plan.

The commission will soon release a report on beefing up the competitiveness of young people in the city in an effort to help them plan their future and ease their anxieties.

Meanwhile, former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa launched a think tank recently and invited Alibaba Group’s founder Jack Ma Yun to make a speech.

Ma said he encouraged young people to start a business and announced the setting up of a HK$1 billion fund for Hong Kong start-ups.

The fund will help early start-ups to sell their products in the mainland and involve young people in Hong Kong in the “China Dream” that President Xi Jinping is promoting.

Ma’s initiative is far more attractive than Law’s rhetoric.

A generous Hongkonger has donated a 200 square foot shop in Shanghai Street in Jordan to the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, offering it to young businesspeople at HK$1 rent.

As many as 114 applications to lease the space have been filed, which reflects the spirit of entrepreneurship among young Hongkongers.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah also suggested the idea of food trucks run by young entrepreneurs.

It would seem there are many opportunities accessible to the young people of Hong Kong.

However, starting a business in the city is much easier said than done.

In Hong Kong, the biggest roadblock is exorbitantly high rent.

That’s why the rent-free initiatives mentioned look so attractive.

Beijing and pro-establishment lawmakers have blindly encouraged young people to create businesses, and the bitter reality is that almost 99 percent of these young entrepreneurs will fail and society will have to figure out new options for them.

Employees account for the majority of the working population in any developed nation.

If most young people just rush into becoming entrepreneurs, there would be a negative impact on society as a whole.

Therefore, the government’s move to feed youngsters with start-up dreams may deviate from the cruel reality.

The chances of success for a start-up in Hong Kong are much lower, because of the high rent and labor cost.

If the government continues to ignore this fact, those subsidies will benefit only large volunteer organizations, and the public will have to pay the price eventually.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 31.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

JZ/JP/FL

Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe