Innovation for Hong Kong's Upward Social Mobility

25 3.4 Society: Conservative Attitudes Towards Technology and Innovation, Livelihood Issues, Political Chaos and Economic Recession 3.4.1 Conservative attitudes towards technology and innovation: Hong Kong has a sound financial system, a free and open economic system, a sound legal system, and the free flow of capital and information. These are all recognized advantages of Hong Kong. According to the University Grants Committee (UGC), the number of undergraduates studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects has been around 30% of the total for the past three years. If postgraduate (Master or PhD) figures are counted, around 55% of students studied STEM in the 2018-2019 academic year 63. These figures represent the talent pool provided by local academic organizations for technology and innovation. However, the main problem is that STEM graduates may not be able to work in related fields after graduation. In addition to the plight and uncoordinated development of Hong Kong’s R&D industries mentioned above, local graduates generally believe that compared with other strong economic pillar industries, there are fewer employment opportunities and low financial security for work in the science and technology field. Due to the general aversion of risk in society and imperfect talent system in frontier fields, Hong Kong graduates are more concentrated in financial services, real estate or trade-related fields when choosing jobs. Parental expectations and high living costs often prompt potential student entrepreneurs to move to careers with certain income security, such as banking or medicine. This has prompted Hong Kong’s STEM graduates to hold a conservative attitude, and outstanding students with engineering and scientific training backgrounds are more inclined to apply for banking, professional legal services and management jobs. As Hong Kong’s current technology and innovation industries fail to attract local graduates to build Hong Kong’s talent pool and innovation ecosystem, those who aspire to work in science and technology will seek career opportunities outside Hong Kong. 3.4.2 Livelihood issues: According to the Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report 2019, the working poor population in Hong Kong comprises 501,900 people (more than 154,200 households).64 With the increase of the poor population in Hong Kong, local talents are more inclined to accept high-paying jobs in banking and finance industries to improve their living standard, rather than jobs in technology and innovation that match their interests. In addition, some technology and innovation industries require job-seekers to obtain a master’s degree or even a doctorate degree due to their high-tech nature. In this case, students will have to bear higher learning and living expenses, and may eventually give up the opportunity to pursue a career in technology and innovation. Although the government has established a Continuing Education Fund, the participation rate of continuing education in Hong Kong has been relatively low for many years. According to a survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department in 2018, out of 3,689,100 economically active people, only 20.4% had participated in work-related training/retraining courses arranged by the employer and/or on their own within the 12 months before the survey.65 As socio-economic issues are in crisis due to the impact of COVID-19, this will cause more instability in government governance and affect the coordination and implementation of technology and innovation industries related policies. 63 Revitalizing Hong Kong Economy. (2019). PwC HK: PricewaterhouseCoopers Hong Kong. 64 The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report 2019, 65 The Research Office of the Legislative Council Secretariat of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Cultivate Local Talents, 3 Challenges for the Development of Hong Kong’s Technology and Innovation Industries