23 October 2016
A Taiwanese child adds to the joyous mood after the island's recent presidential election. Hongkongers can only envy the true democracy enjoyed by those people. Photo: Reuters
A Taiwanese child adds to the joyous mood after the island's recent presidential election. Hongkongers can only envy the true democracy enjoyed by those people. Photo: Reuters

Happiness score: Why we can do better

A survey has suggested that Hong Kong people are considerably less happy when compared to their counterparts in Seoul and Osaka.

The result of the City University of Hong Kong poll is not really surprising, given the unaffordable housing and various other social as well as political issues confronting the city.

However, the silver lining is that we seem to get happier as we grow older.

According to the CUHK happiness index survey, senior citizens are more cheerful relative to other age groups in the city.

But taken as a whole, Hongkongers have the lowest score on happiness out of three Asian cities, getting 6.83 out of 10 compared with 7.01 for Seoul and 7.41 for Osaka.   

We can understand why our people are generally so glum.

Let me illustrate with a story. My friend, a retired CFO, is upset because his daughter, who is waiting to get married, is unable to buy a house despite the reported softening of property prices recently.

My friend says he gave a huge cash gift to his daughter to help her in her home-buying efforts, but there has been no positive news so far.

He says he is aware that young couples won’t be able to afford a roof of their own unless they get monetary support from their parents.

While high property and other living costs are something that people have come to accept as their fate, there is another deep worry among our youth — questions over their identity.

This was reflected in a discussion on Backchat, the popular RTHK show which I was invited to join in this morning.

We know young people in Hong Kong nowadays do not like China. And they do not like to be told what they can or cannot do.

They are wary of Beijing and do not want Hong Kong to get into a close embrace with the mainland.

Nearly nineteen years after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule, people are still trying to determine what it is to be a Hongkonger.

Trouble is: we relied too much on China in the past.

We rode on the back of the mainland economy when the going was good there, but are now stuck as growth has stalled and promised political reforms have also not come about in our city.

So, what do we do?

I guess the first thing that we should ensure is that we mustn’t forget who we are.

Many of us are the children of people who fled to Hong Kong from the mainland in the 60s and worked themselves to the limit to make a new life.

Striving hard, we produced outstanding products and services, starting from the textile industry in the 70s, other manufacturing in the 80s, financial services in the 90s, and tourism in the new millennium.

We are, after all, creative people with entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of opportunity.

As with other places, be it San Francisco or Shenzhen, our prospects depend on how well we can we integrate ourselves into the new economy.

Our youngsters need words of encouragement and more institutional support to help them give wing to their dreams and create a new generation of startups. 

To get things going, the Innovation Bureau chief Nicholas Yang could perhaps try to get technology stalwarts like Tim Cook, Larry Page or Mark Zuckerberg to give pep talks in Hong Kong.

That will be better than Yang merely talking about a meeting he had with the late Steve Jobs many years ago.

We can learn and be inspired by others, but ultimately our destiny is in our own hands.

It is up to us to improve our lives and our happiness quotient.

Now, coming back to Hong Kong’s poor happiness score relative to Korea and Japan, although we have many things to be unhappy about, let us not forget to count our blessings.

Unlike the other two Asian nations, we haven’t had MERS, tsunamis or nuclear accidents — just to name a few things.

Hongkongers less happy than Singaporeans, Japanese: Poll (Feb. 17, 2015)

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EJ Insight writer

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