Tiny Apartments and Punishing Work Hours: The Economic Roots of Hong Kong’s Protests

Excerpts from article by Alexandra Stevenson and Jin Wu, July 22, 2019, New York Times:

“HONG KONG — Rents higher than New York, London or San Francisco for apartments half the size. Nearly one in five people living in poverty. A minimum wage of $4.82 an hour.

Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese city of 7.4 million people shaken this summer by huge protests, may be the world’s most unequal place to live. Anger over the growing power of mainland China in everyday life has fueled the protests, as has the desire of residents to choose their own leaders. But beneath that political anger lurks an undercurrent of deep anxiety over their own economic fortunes — and fears that it will only get worse.

“We thought maybe if you get a better education, you can have a better income,” said Kenneth Leung, a 55-year-old college-educated protester. “But in Hong Kong, over the last two decades, people may be able to get a college education, but they are not making more money.”

Mr. Leung joined the protests over Hong Kong’s plan to allow extraditions of criminal suspects to mainland China, where the Communist Party controls the courts and forced confessions are common. But he is also angry about his own situation: He works 12 hours a day, six days a week as a security guard, making $5.75 an hour.

He is one of 210,000 Hong Kong residents who live in one of the city’s thousands of illegally subdivided apartments. Some are so small they are called cages and coffins.

His room, by comparison, is a relatively spacious 100 square feet to sleep, cook and live. He sometimes struggles to make his $512 a month rent after paying for food and other living costs.

The numbers are striking. Hong Kong’s gap between the rich and the poor is at its widest in nearly half a century, and among the starkest in the world. It boasts the world’s longest working hours and the highest rents. Wages have not kept up with rent, which has increased by nearly a quarter over the same period. Housing prices have more than tripled over the past decade.

The median price of a house is more than 20 times the annual median household income.…”

Full article: www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/07/22/world/asia/hong-kong-housing-inequality.html

Note regarding above chart: Lloyd House’s converted Ford Econoline van in Tiny Homes on the Move has 75 sq. ft. of floor space.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

One Response to Tiny Apartments and Punishing Work Hours: The Economic Roots of Hong Kong’s Protests

  1. A friend recently graduated from college, and went to Japan to study and learn Japanese.
    His family of 4 went to visit him in Japan. He allowed on 2 visitors at a time to his apartment, and made the
    other 2 wait. There just wasn’t room for all to fit. And he was not even in Tokyo!

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