There are few countries in the world which have undergone anywhere near the degree of change seen in Hong Kong over the last 20 years as “ownership” of the region was passed over to the Chinese government. This was part of a process which began many years ago with the UK government looking to hand over basic control of the region to the Chinese authorities although they did negotiate a “high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong itself with the exception of areas such as foreign affairs and defence.
While many people may have been concerned about the possible changes in Hong Kong in recent times, this is still a country which continues to attract significant expat interest and is very much at the centre of financial markets.
The history of Hong Kong
The history of Hong Kong goes back to 1842 and the Treaty of Nanking which saw the British forces formally stake a claim for Hong Kong which ultimately continued for many years. There have been various fallouts between the British government and the Chinese authorities over the years although ultimately, as we saw in 1997, the country was passed over to local Chinese control under the guise of a very complicated and long-winded agreement.
Hong Kong itself was a very useful and very lucrative trading port for the British Empire and there is still a significant British influence on the culture and architecture of the region. Indeed the emergence of a significant financial centre in Hong Kong was in the main due to British influence and the number of British firms staking a claim in the Hong Kong financial markets.
The population of Hong Kong
Hong Kong is estimated to have a population of just over 7 million people, gross domestic product of approaching $300 billion and an economy which has undergone significant change over the last fifty years. Many people will be surprised to find that the area has a very low fertility rate which is less than one child per woman, significantly below the 2.1 children per woman which is widely believed to be the least required to maintain population numbers. However, the country is set to see a significant increase in its population over the next few years with a massive influx of immigrants from mainland China and surrounding areas.
The vast majority of the population in Hong Kong are of Chinese origin although there are Vietnamese, Europeans, Americans, Australians, Canadians, Japanese and Koreans working in the region.
Education in Hong Kong
As we suggested above, there is a heavy British influence in Hong Kong which stretches to various areas of the local culture including education. The education system is based upon the English system although higher education levels do incorporate both the English and American style of education. Aside from English, Cantonese and Mandarin are two of the more popular languages in the region and Hong Kong is renowned as having one of the best International student assessment programs in the world.
While there is a very heavy influence from Europe, this is integrated with the local Chinese roots of Hong Kong with many describing this as an “East meets West” scenario. While there are obvious overlaps between the different cultures of Europe and China, Hong Kong is probably one of the most successful countries in the world with regards to bringing together to vastly different cultures. This has even continued since the area was transferred to Chinese control, something which has surprised many people.
Transport in Hong Kong
The transport system in Hong Kong is one of the most developed in the world and when you consider that over 90% of daily journeys are carried out via public transport, the highest percentage in the world, it is easy to see the influence it has on the region. Not only is there an excellent transport network, which reaches vast areas of Hong Kong, but the reliability factor which is often missing in European countries is very high. As a consequence, it is possible to live on the outskirts of Hong Kong’s busy business district yet still have ready access for employment purposes.
The Hong Kong economy
As we touched on above, the Hong Kong economy is based upon a capitalist culture which is alien to many surrounding countries in the region. However, Hong Kong has established itself as one of the world’s leading financial centres and continues to go from strength to strength, often seen as a stepping stone for western countries looking to break into eastern markets. While the economy itself has not been without controversy, with the Asian financial crisis of 1998 and the SARS outbreak in 2003 two such examples, it has tended to bounce back quicker than many developed economies in the world.
As Hong Kong is a highly industrialised country with little arable land and very little in the way of natural resources there is a high dependence on imports and a number of strong relationships have been built over the years. One such relationship is with China, now in ultimate control of Hong Kong, which would appear to work on both sides with the Chinese authorities using Hong Kong as an entry point for overseas investment.
Employment prospects in Hong Kong
While the worldwide economy continues to struggle under the weight of the recent financial crisis there have obviously been cutbacks in areas such as Hong Kong which depends greatly upon the financial sector. However, as and when the worldwide economy recovers, with signs that China and Hong Kong are already in recovery mode, we will continue to see more and more employment positions arise for those in foreign lands. The financial sector is by far and away the most popular employment area for expats although there are other industries being created in and around Hong Kong which are attracting Western interest.
While many people had expressed concern about the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese authorities, the agreement which the UK government signed appears to be watertight and holding firm at the moment. Hong Kong is to all intents and purposes “fully autonomous” although issues such as defence are still handled by the Chinese authorities.
Unlike many other areas of the world, Hong Kong is very much an area for employment opportunities rather than a new way of life. The financial sector is by far and away the most influential area of the economy and as such is at the beck and call of fluctuations in the worldwide economy.