Mapping Social Determinants

Income distribution

From a social point of view, Hong Kong’s inequalities are spatially visible. High-income groups are more likely to live on Hong Kong Island whereas low-income groups are more likely to live in the Western and Northern New Territories. In Kowloon, however, the spatial patterns of deprivation and privilege are more fine-grained. The Kowloon district of Sham Shui Po, home to comparatively deprived groups, borders the fairly wealthy north of Kowloon City district.

Hong Kong’s population is ageing. The ‘Ageing society’ chart shows that the proportion of the population over 65 has risen steadily over the last 30 years, and now stands at 12 per cent. Today, young people under 20 make up just 20 per cent of the population. The combination of Hong Kong’s ageing population and an increasing trend of older people living alone mean that Hong Kong’s population is becoming ever more vulnerable. This phenomenon is concentrated problem in Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the central New Territories, where the share of single elderly households is greatest, as can be seen from the bar chart ‘Vulnerable households’.

Housing inequality

Hong Kong’s land regulation policies and high-density development has had significant impacts on the level of crowding amongst its housing stock. On average, a Hong Kong resident has 13 square metres (140 square feet) of living space available to them, a quantity that is an order of magnitude lower than those enjoyed by the residents of cities with similar levels of income such as London or even New York. The number of rooms per person across the city – a proxy for overcrowding – suggests an unequal spatial pattern that closely mirrors the distribution in income and housing tenure. In the dense central areas of Hong Kong Island, for example, the number of rooms per person is higher where the population is richer. As one might expect, ownership rates in such areas are also significantly higher: almost 60 per cent of households living on Hong Kong Island own their property, while this share is significantly lower in parts of the urban region where there are more deprived neighbourhoods, such as in Kowloon and central New Territories.

Public housing makes up 31 per cent of the overall housing stock in Hong Kong, thanks to government’s substantial housing programmes. This is much higher in Kowloon and the southern parts of the New Territories than in Hong Kong Island, as a result of the decision to deliver the majority of public housing through the creation of new towns. While low income is one important social factor in determining vulnerability in relation to health, living in poor housing conditions adds another important burden, and one which is disproportionately felt by low income residents.

Source: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong Planning Department.