Five expectations of new HKSAR government on social mobility for youth

Chief executive hopeful John Lee Ka-chiu put forward the notion of “young people is our future” and delivered policies that focus on social mobility for local youth in his manifesto.

I can strongly resonate with Mr Lee’s proposition because, personally, I’ve committed myself to creating opportunities for our young people and giving them a hopeful future through a decade of social service. 

In the scenario of Mr Lee adopting the reorganization proposed by the current HKSAR administration and establishing the new Home and Youth Affairs Bureau, it’ll send a clear signal that our new government is paying more attention to local youth.

However, there’s still a long way to go before reaching the goal of more upward mobility for youth in our society. It will depend on the new bureau’s positioning, strategy and specific planning. On this note, I have five recommendations to share.

(1)   Creating a 10-Year Youth Development Master Plan (2022-2032)

The master plan will be a framework to showcase a policy vision that’s youth-oriented and guide the reorganization of all youth-related policies. A great reference material is the Middle- and Long-term Youth Development Plan (2016-2025) issued by the State Council in 2017.

Once Mr Lee and his team are able to decide on a fundamental policy direction for the betterment of our youth and associated goals, it would be a game changer for the HKSAR government, which tends to miss out youth as an important stakeholder in our top-down policy design.  

(2)   Reaching a consensus on why we need youth development, how and whom it’s for

Mr Lee has made a good attempt to answer these questions through his platform — we groom young people for our country and for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Ideally, the younger generation is patriotic, committed to lifelong learning and equipped with global perspectives and professional skills.

A robust youth policy program in Hong Kong should cover a wide spectrum of activities. This should include greater access to high-quality vocational training, employment, internship and entrepreneurship opportunities on the Chinese mainland and abroad.

Mainstreaming STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) is a must to encourage an innovative culture among young people. Our national education curriculum should be enhanced to help youth strengthen their sense of belonging to our country.

It would be a pleasure to see our government answer  these questions that are core to youth development in a confident manner. Then, we would stand the best chance of increasing upward mobility for most young people in Hong Kong.

(3)   Growing our arts, culture and technology-related industries for young people

Hong Kong is embracing the post-materialistic era as seen in the common pursuit of quality of life instead of pure economic security across local youth. The demand for libraries, museums, galleries and cultural facilities has soared in recent years.

What is more is that youth find thriving opportunities in the crossover between culture and technology. Innovative industries, such as livestreaming, digital arts and “cloud tourism”, have intrigued many young people not only in Hong Kong but also on the mainland and overseas.

Young people are key actors in driving the growth of these new industries. They often wear multiple hats – as the main content creators, users, consumers, trend setters and technology leaders. Our government ought to better understand the fundamentals of these emerging industries.

New ways to unleash the potential of young people, allocate more resources to empower young people in these new industries and address the needs of young people taking up new slasher jobs are all critical in bringing a refreshing change to our current youth policies.

(4)    Generating equal opportunities for high-quality learning and development

Ten years ago, I founded a sports charity and brought together current, as well as retired Hong Kong professional athletes, to support grassroots youth in taking part in long-term sports training. Our mission is to give those who are less privileged similar opportunities as their more affluent peers.

Therefore, when I came across the advocacy of “introducing a pilot scheme to address inter-generational poverty” in Mr Lee’s manifesto, it’s difficult to hide my excitement since this is exactly the “social capital mega platform” I’ve been waiting to see for so long.

In the battle against the fifth wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve served as a volunteer coordinator at the Hong Kong Community Anti-Coronavirus Link. The experience has given me a brief taste of how to effectively structure public-private collaboration to respond to urgent problems in our society.

Soon, the new Home and Youth Affairs Bureau is expected to bring us a brand new district governance model. On the one hand, it will mobilize manpower from the public, private and social sectors, including youth. On the other hand, it will utilize social capital to solve inter-generational poverty and upward mobility problems for our young people in a precise manner.

(5)   Broadening the national and global horizons of our young people

In order to prepare Hong Kong youth for the vast opportunities in global markets, the SAR government is responsible for nurturing them into citizens with a strong sense of national identity, as well as affection for Hong Kong and international perspectives.

I will urge the government to consider adding resources for all primary and secondary school students to go on at least one exchange program to the Chinese mainland, granting all youth under 18 a free round-trip high-speed railway ticket for them to explore the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area on their own.

The HKSAR government is also welcomed to discuss with local governments on the mainland and create new channels for youth in Hong Kong to participate in local service projects and learn about poverty alleviation and rural revitalization on the ground.

I’m eager to see our new government sending more young people to tell stories about China and the HKSAR to the international audience. Our youth are well positioned to speak up and contribute to global governance themes such as zero poverty, climate change and sustainability.

The above five points are based on my personal reflection in relation to policies that can help increase upward mobility for young people in Hong Kong and my expectations of the new institutional setup of our HKSAR government.

I’ve noticed that the youth section of Mr Lee’s manifesto has already incorporated many useful suggestions from 73 youth groups, such as the Hong Kong United Youth Association and the Y.Elites Association, covering all important facets like youth employment, entrepreneurship and housing.

I hope to see that, under Mr Lee’s leadership, these youth policies can be translated into specific targets and actions in the near future. Young people in Hong Kong can thereafter deliver the best of themselves for their hometown, their country and the world.


The author is a board member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.