Date
18 August 2018
Inequalities in wealth and opportunities, and disruptive new technologies, are posing a big challenge to many societies. Photo: Bloomberg
Inequalities in wealth and opportunities, and disruptive new technologies, are posing a big challenge to many societies. Photo: Bloomberg

Middle-class: The uphill struggle

Most people in the world, especially Hongkongers, tend to believe in a fairy-tale formula. Everyone tries their best to get into an elite school at a young age, and find a job in a big company or become a professional when they grow up.

Marrying a good person and having children while they are promoted to managers — that’s the next goal. The happy ending comes, and prince and princess will live a happy life forever!

Well, that dream is now becoming ever more difficult to chase, given profound changes in society and the workplace thanks to new technologies and other developments.

With the advent of instant messaging software, WRP, big data and other new technologies, middle management jobs are fast disappearing. Horizontal organization and lean management have become the norm. The world’s best companies are sparing no effort in streamlining to maintain their competitiveness.

As middle-manager jobs are diminishing rapidly, most young employees might encounter the glass ceiling in their 30s. Even professionals like doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers may also feel the threat from AI.

Frankly speaking, if one is lucky enough to secure a middle-manager position, they are still far away from happy ending.

The median income of Hong Kong employees stood at HK$17,000 per month last year, and only 6.8 percent of employees in the city have a monthly salary over HK$60,000. Even this group of 6.8 percent needs to save for 43 years to afford a 792-square-foot flat in Taikoo Shing if they can put aside half of their monthly salary.

French economist Thomas Piketty has proved that rate of capital return has exceeded that of labor, which has widened the global inequality. The trend is even more striking in cities like Hong Kong.

When most people enter their middle age, they may face the trend of diminishing middle-manager jobs and shrinking middle class.

The way ahead looks very gloomy. But humans have evolved over a long period of 200,000 years. There is always a way out. In a new book, I will share some tips on how we can survive in the constantly changing world. We have to recognize the reality and embrace new changes. If we can do that, who knows, we might live even better than in the good old days.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 18

Translation by Julie Zhu with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

RC

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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