Hong Kong is both heaven and hell, depending on who you ask. Heaven to wealthy tourists and families of influential people; hell to poor immigrants and migrant workers. More proof that this wide gap between the rich and the poor is the latest report from the UN Development Program which ranks Hong Kong at the top of the table with the widest gap between rich and poor residents.
UNDP’s basis of ranking is through the Gini coefficient, a standard measurement of inequality of income and wealth. The closer the rich-poor gap, the lower the Gini score, so a high Gini score means a big disparity. Unfortunately for Hong Kong, it posseses the highest Gini score of all countries (certain country reports may not be very accurate).
/>1. Hong Kong – 43.4
/>2. Singapore – 42.5
/>3. United States – 40.8
/>4. Israel – 39.2
/>5. Portugal – 38.5
/>6. New Zealand – 36.2
/>7. Italy – 36.0
/>7. Great Britain – 36.0
/>9. Australia – 35.2
/>10. Ireland – 34.3
/>11. Greece – 34.3
At the other end of the rankings table, Scandinavian countries, Japan and Czech Republic have the slightest of margins.
In Hong Kong’s Central Business District, an array of luxury shops selling expensive bags, shoes and jewelry are a common sight. On its hilly outskirts lie tiny yet expensive residential dwellings that offer an almost uninterrupted harbor view. The territory’s property market is one of the most pricey in the world; recently, a posh 5-bedroom apartment in the exclusive Peak district fetched a world record $71,280 Hong Kong Dollars or $9,000 US dollars per square foot, even surpassing rates at Hyde Park 1 in London.
/>On the other side of Hong Kong are the so-called cage people, residents living in ultra small dwellings, barely able to make ends meet and end up begging in the busy streets. Food is expensive, so are other necessities, and so losing a job is a matter of life and death. Unfortunately Hong Kong’s suicide rate is relatively high and is often attributed to heavy financial losses.
/>Hong Kong has one of the lowest tax rates in the world. However, this news is only good to tax payers and not to poorly paid domestic helpers who still end up paying government levy — albeit suspended for a while — even if their salaries are way below taxable income. This is one of the reasons that keep the gap between the rich and the poor oh so wide.