My mom visits Hong Kong almost once a year. She left Hong Kong for Vancouver more than 20 years ago. This year, she’s amazed how much Hong Kong has changed, even just from the past year.
Everything is much, more expensive
We walked in the old parts of Sai Ying Pun, and in one of those older malls built probably in the 1980’s. Hardly a posh mall. As we were strolling through a Japanese department store, we walked past a cafe. It wasn’t even a “classy” cafe, but one where you order at the counter and find yourself a seat. A salad was HK$100. A soup was HK$70. If you wanted to add a drink, it’s an extra HK$30. A simple supper will cost HK$200.
The life of our taxi driver
Few days ago, we took a taxi. As I chatted with the taxi driver, he told me renting a taxi costs HK$480 for a morning shift and HK$420 for a night shift. With other running costs, it will cost him at least HK$600 per shift (you only work one shift a day unless you don’t sleep). He makes about HK$1,200 per day before deducting costs, meaning his gross profits are HK$600 a day. Assuming he works 5 days a week, he makes 12,000 a month.
He only eats two meals a day
Certainly, the taxi driver cannot afford to eat a HK$200 supper. He says he spends about HK$100 a day just eating two meals. Assuming he eats only 2 meals a day, he might have only HK$9,000 left. What if he wants to eat 3 meals on weekends, buy fruits, and some snacks? What if he has to pay rent because he’s beyond the income requirements for public housing? We are also assuming that he’s single and doesn’t have a family to feed.
What I was telling my mom was that ordinary HongKongers aren’t just seeing their salaries not catching up with rising costs. Skyrocketing property prices, leading to high rental costs, which means rising costs of commodities, have pushed costs of living beyond the means of many ordinary people in Hong Kong. Ordinary people are finding themselves no longer able to meet their basic needs with their income. In some extreme cases, they are no longer living with human dignity.