From four NOes to four YESes

July 13, 2023 10:25
A job fair held in Zigui, central China's Hubei Province. Photo: Xinhua

One fundamental issue that hinders China’s post-pandemic economic rebound is what is known as the “four noes” among the younger generations, meaning they
do not want to fall in love, they have no interest in getting married, they don't want kids, nor do they want to buy a house.

Underlying the four interplaying factors is a lack of confidence in the future as China has seen a 20 per cent plus unemployment rate among graduates. No wonder the country’s marriage rate hit a 37-year low.

A common phenomenon among Chinese youngsters is laying low, as exemplified by the “four noes”, a sharp contrast to the four pursuits – baby, dog, car and home – in Hong Kong in the golden 80s.

A document issued by the Guangzhou Communist Youth League circulating on the Internet pointed out that 8 per cent of university students and working youths in Guangzhou adopted the four-noes approach to life.

The paper calls on the government’s attention to how to turn the "four noes" phenomenon into the "four yeses" through the efforts of various parties.

Some youngsters do want to fall in love, get married, have kids and buy a house, the problem is they are not able to do it in the current environment. Well, they need to make money to support themselves first before talking about dating, having a family or buying a property.

Incidentally, Chief Executive John Lee said the government has been studying measures to boost the birth rate, noting that a drop in the student population is a structural problem and the SAR's birth rate is lower than most cities in the world.

There is no related research on the “four-noes” phenomenon in Hong Kong, but it won't be surprising if our youngsters share the same thoughts as their mainland counterparts.

Worse, even if there are many married couples with kids and self-owned properties, many of them chose to leave Hong Kong.

Recently a local paper reported 27,000 students had left the local education system last year. The finding was consistent with the observation that some 200,000 people left Hong Kong during the pandemic period.
The worst thing is no one knows if the brain drain has hit its peak. Probably not.

As such, Hong Kong government offered working visas to entice top talents from all over the world. John Lee told the Hong Kong Economic Journal 50th anniversary forum that over 100,000 visa applications were received in the first half.

It is time for Hong Kong and Chinese government to come up with some creative ideas that will stimulate the youth to fall in love with each other and more importantly, to love their countries, in this critical period.

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EJ Insight writer