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Joint-University research reveals that child deprivation has strong negative effect on overall life satisfaction of children in Hong Kong

07 Dec 2016

(From left) Dr Maggie Lau, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Policy, City University of Hong Kong, Prof Joshua Mok, Vice-President and Chair Professor of Comparative Policy, Lingnan University, Prof John Hudson, Professor of Social Policy, Departm
(From left) Dr Maggie Lau, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Policy, City University of Hong Kong, Prof Joshua Mok, Vice-President and Chair Professor of Comparative Policy, Lingnan University, Prof John Hudson, Professor of Social Policy, Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York, and Prof Stefan Kühner, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, Lingnan University, talk about their research results.

 

According to the results of a joint-university research by Lingnan University, City University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, University of New South Wales, University of Bristol and University of York on child poverty and children’s well-being, child deprivation has a strong negative effect on the overall life satisfaction of children in Hong Kong.  While perceived strong relationships with family members and teachers can raise overall life satisfaction of children, they are not strong enough to halt the overall downward trend in children’s life satisfaction with age.  Although alleviation of child poverty in Hong Kong has been observed, child poverty rate in Hong Kong, as a modern globalised city, remains high in international comparison with other developed economies.

 

Background and methodology of the research

 

The joint-university research, entitled Poverty, Disadvantages and Children’s Well-Being in Hong Kong (PDCW), is part of a Strategic Public Policy Research - Trends and Implications of Poverty and Social Disadvantages in Hong Kong: A Multi-disciplinary and Longitudinal Study funded by the Central Policy Unit and the Research Grants Council (Project No. 4003-SPPR-11) of the Hong Kong SAR.  Data collection involved focus groups and face-to-face household surveys to obtain quantitative information on children’s living standards and related circumstances. Data was collected between June 2014 and August 2015. The analyses is derived from 793 school-aged children between 10 and 17.

 

Key research findings

 

Key findings of the research are summarised in tables 1 to 4 (please see Appendices) with the following highlights:

  • Around 14% of surveyed children stated that they “would like, but don’t have” a suitable place to study; around 18% cannot afford a meal with friends; 21% don’t manage to save any money for their future (Table 2).
  • Some parents who experience income poverty sacrifice their own needs to provide for their children (Table 3).
  • Child deprivation has a strong negative effect on the overall life satisfaction of children (Table 4).
  • Perceived strong relationships with family members and teachers have the ability to raise overall life satisfaction of children. These supportive environments are, however, not strong enough to halt the overall downward trend in children’s life satisfaction with age, i.e., the older children get, the lower their life satisfaction tends to become.  The fact that bullying at school has a similar negative effect on children’s life satisfaction than child deprivation is particular cause for concern (Table 4).

 

Child poverty in Hong Kong from a comparative perspective

 

In drawing international and comparative insights from the results of the latest UNICEF Report Card 13, Fairness for Children, conducted by the staff of the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence, Italy and authored by a group of researchers from the University of York, UK, it is noticed that:

 

  1. Reducing the gap between the most disadvantaged and the average children is an effective way to improve the well-being of all children

 

International evidence presented in the UNICEF Report Card suggests that in order to benefit the well-being of all children it is vital that greater progress is made in reducing bottom-end inequality in child well-being.  For instance, countries with smaller child well-being gaps between the children at the 10th percentile of the income distribution and the children at the median tend to also have fewer children living in poverty. Similar patterns are observed in other aspects such as education, health and life satisfaction.

 

  1. Alleviation of child poverty in Hong Kong has been observed but child poverty rate remains high in international comparison

 

The latest Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report suggests a decreasing overall picture of child poverty in Hong Kong.  The pre-intervention poverty rate among children aged below 18 decreased from 25.4% in 2009 to 23.2% in 2015.  After intervention the child poverty rate was reduced to 18%, which is lower than for some Southern European countries especially after the 2008 financial crisis, but still substantially higher in comparison with the best performing cases among high income countries such as Norway, Finland and Denmark, who typically have child poverty rates around 5% or below.

 

Policy implications

 

Results of the research suggested that strengthening social transfer systems for disadvantaged children is a key policy goal in Hong Kong.  Financial and social support should be prioritised to children who are in disadvantaged socioeconomic positions. Furthermore, when formulating policies and measures to alleviate child poverty, authorities should take the voices of children more seriously.

 

International Master of Social Sciences in Comparative Social Policy

 

Inequality in child well-being in the Hong Kong SAR will be discussed as part of new International Master of Social Science in Comparative Social Policy offered by the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at Lingnan University in collaboration with the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York, United Kingdom. More information is available on the program website: http://www.ln.edu.hk/socsp/imcsp/

 

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Attachments:

 

About the “Poverty, Disadvantages and Children’s Well-Being in Hong Kong” research

 

The joint-university research entitled Poverty, Disadvantages and Children’s Well-Being in Hong Kong (PDCW) is part of the Strategic Public Policy Research (SPPR) project “Trends and Implications of Poverty and Social Disadvantages in Hong Kong: A Multi-disciplinary and Longitudinal Study”.  The SPPR project aims to measure and gauge the current trends and implications of poverty and social disadvantages in Hong Kong.   It has three main objectives:

  1. to measure the extent and nature of poverty, deprivation and exclusion in Hong Kong (i.e. Poverty, Social Disadvantages and Exclusion, PSDE);
  2. to assess the interaction between poverty and health inequalities (i.e. Poverty, Disadvantages and Health Inequality, PDHI); and
  3. to investigate the impacts of poverty, inequality and social disadvantages on children’s health and well-being (i.e. Poverty, Disadvantages and Children’s Well-Being, PDCW).

 

Research team:

  1. PDSE: Wong Hung* (Principle investigator) and Chen Ji-Kang (Department of Social Work, CUHK); Bo Huang and Joanna Lee (Department of Geography and Resource Management, CUHK); Peter Saunders (University of New South Wales)
  2. PDHI: Roger Chung*, Samuel Wong, Sian Griffiths, Martin Wong and Jonson Lau (The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, CUHK)
  3. PDCW: Maggie Lau Ka-wai* (City University of Hong Kong); Joshua Mok Ka-ho (Lingnan University); David Gordon and Christina Pantazis (University of Bristol); Jonathan Bradshaw (University of York)

*Research stream leaders