Hong Kong’s household income inequality rose to a record high last year, a government by-census has shown.
The Census and Statistics Department announced that the city’s Gini co-efficient based on monthly household income in 2016 was 0.539. Higher scores represent greater inequality.
During Hong Kong’s last census in 2011, a score of 0.537 was recorded. The figure has been on the rise since the first measurements were made in the 1971 census.
By comparison, Singapore recorded a figure of 0.458 last year.
The department attributed the heightened income inequality mainly to the effects of a rapidly ageing population, and an increase in the number of non-working elderly people.
“Although population ageing had accelerated in recent years, the increase in the Gini co-efficient based on original household income had slowed down,” said the department in a press release on Friday.
“Improvements in the employment and income situations of the grass-roots workers as well as the increasing government expenditure on cash social benefits in recent years… relieved the widening effect of accelerating population ageing on income disparity.”
If households with no working members are discounted, Hong Kong’s Gini co-efficient would have decreased from 0.489 in 2011 to 0.482 in 2016, said the department.
Excluding foreign domestic workers, the median monthly income of the working population rose from HK$12,000 in 2011 to HK$15,500 in 2016. The department said this represented a 9.5 per cent increase, taking into account inflation.
Responding to the latest figures, NGO Society for Community Organisation said in a press release that Hong Kong’s low-income families have been unable to benefit from economic growth and the amassing of wealth in the city in recent years.
“The Special Administrative Region government has not set a long-term goal to reduce income inequality,” it said. “Inequality has long been a source of conflict in Hong Kong society, and has a directly impact on whether the government can govern effectively.”
A government census is conducted in Hong Kong every five years.