- Overall score dropped 0.63 points from 2017 – and researchers warn of downward trend worsening
- City’s economic performance hit lowest point in 17 years, driven down by home prices and rental costs
The quality of life for Hongkongers declined in 2018 and the effects of the extradition bill crisis could make it even worse this year, according to an annual index compiled by university researchers.
The ratings, released by Chinese University on Friday, showed that the city's economic performance in 2018 was at its lowest point in 16 years, driven down by home prices. The rankings for government performance and freedom of speech also dropped last year.
The study, conducted in January with 1,002 respondents, found the overall quality of life index score for Hong Kong in 2018 was 105.96, a decrease of 0.63 points from 2017. The base score for the index is 100, which was the score for 2002 when the research was first compiled.
The index consists of 23 indicators grouped into five sub-indices: health, society, culture and leisure, economy and environment.
The economic index was at a record low in 2018 with a score of 11.89, a drop from 12.65 in 2017.
According to Chong Tai-leung, an associate professor of economics at Chinese University, rising housing and rental prices were decreasing the quality of life for Hongkongers.
The housing affordability index dropped 17.7 per cent in 2018, and the rental index fell 13.2 per cent.
"In 2018, the housing prices rose by over 5 to 10 per cent, so I believe this trend will keep going," Chong said.
He pointed out that it can take a middle-class family around 17 years to afford a flat in Kowloon.
The index for society, however, increased to an all-time high with a score of 29.06. The increase was because of improvements to the crime rate, public expenditures on education and university placements.
The political situation in 2018 caused government performance to decrease by 7.4 per cent and freedom of speech to drop by 2.2 per cent.
Professor Wong Hung, director of the Centre for Quality of Life and Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, said the city's worsening political climate forced people to practise self-censorship " such as holding back their opinions from family and friends. Wong said the government had not been efficient or open enough when in terms of policymaking.
The Chinese University researchers warned that this year's ratings could worsen because of the crisis triggered by the suspended extradition bill, which has led to a series of mass protests against the government.
"The effects of the current demonstrations will affect housing prices in the coming months because it has already affected the retail sector," Chong said.
"Overall the housing price impact may reduce in the coming months slightly, (although) reduction may not be high."
Wong agreed, saying "Division and conflict are quite high among friends, family and media. It is not really quite free to express ideas in Hong Kong and we can expect it to worsen this year."
He said there were many issues that divided society last year, including the disqualification of Legislative Council members and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's controversial Lantau Island reclamation plan.
Wong said the government should change its style of governance if it wanted to improve Hong Kong's quality of life.
"They need more coordinated efforts between different departments to be more responsible and efficient" he said. "There should be more consultations and exchanges with citizens to really listen and respond to their needs."
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