Innovation for Hong Kong's Upward Social Mobility

46 5.3.3 The growth of educational mobility does not help promote social mobility: In order to speed up Hong Kong’s transition to a knowledge-based economy, the Hong Kong government has substantially increased the number of tertiary education places, allowing more Hong Kong students to enter tertiary education institutions and obtain higher academic qualifications while mastering more knowledge. Theoretically speaking, these young people with higher academic qualifications can engage in more technical jobs and get better pay after graduation. Educational mobility has long been the most effective method for the upward mobility of young people in Chinese society. However, the reality is not as good as expected. Government data show that the proportion of tertiary students to the population in 2016 has increased significantly to 32.7% from 11.3% in 1991. However, after careful analysis, many of the increased degrees are self-funded associate degrees115. The starting salary of these associate degree graduates is much lower than that of government-sponsored university degree holders. This means that for a large number of nominally tertiary graduates, although they have received “extra education”, it is not helpful in improving their income level 116. In fact, even regular government-sponsored college students are less likely to move upward from a good job after graduation. In general, in each category of tertiary education, namely associates degrees, undergraduates and postgraduates, the 5-year upward mobility rate of 2001 / 02 graduates is better than that of 2006 / 07 graduates117. On the other hand, occupational demographic data shows that the improvement of education level cannot effectively assist tertiary graduates to set foot in positions suitable for their majors. It is not easy to improve one’s social situation through occupational mobility. Although the number of management and professional service positions has increased by 16% in the past ten years and accounted for 39% of the working population by 2011, these high-paying jobs were filled by experienced, second-in-command professionals; in other words, there are a limited number of high-paying management and professional services positions, and even if they are increasing, those positions are being filled by the next rung of employees with equally rich experience118. In terms of occupational mobility, the mobility of the young generation has declined: taking the sales and service industries with low technical requirements and low salaries as an example, in 2016, 35.6% of young people aged 15-24 in Hong Kong were engaged in sales and service industries, compared to only 21% in 1996119. The above figures show that educational mobility in Hong Kong cannot actually ensure occupational mobility. Although young people are more educated than the previous generation, they cannot obtain high-paying jobs for them to effectively achieve upward mobility. 115 LegCo Secretariat (2015) “Social mobility in Hong Kong”, Research Brief Issues No.2 2014-15, pp. 5. 116 LegCo Secretariat (2015) “Social mobility in Hong Kong”, Research Brief Issues No.2 2014-15, pp. 5. 117 Financial Secretary’s Office (2016) 2015 “Study on Earnings Mobility”, pp. 12-13 118 LegCo Secretariat (2015) “Social mobility in Hong Kong”, Research Brief Issues No.2 2014-15, pp. 6. 119 Chan, Oswald. “Fixing Social Ladder for Hong Kong Youth.” China Daily, August 27, 2018. es/131/242/53/1535340475392.html. 5 Upward Social Mobility