Henry K C HO: The Neglected Group: Hong Kong Students Graduated in the Mainland

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In recent years, more and more Hong Kong youths have chosen to study in Mainland universities. According to statistics, there are about 15,000 Hong Kong students studying in the Mainland, of which more than half are in Guangdong Province. The “Scheme for Admission of Hong Kong Students to Mainland Higher Education Institutions” has been implemented since 2012 to enable Hong Kong students to apply for undergraduate programs in more than 110 universities in the Mainland directly with the results of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (DSE). About 3,500 Hong Kong students attended the Mainland universities last year, while the number of undergraduate degrees funded by the Hong Kong University Grants Committee (UGC) was 15,000 a year. Excluding private universities and other top-up degrees, around one in six students attending universities will go to the Mainland for further study. However, the attention and research on this particular group of young people in Hong Kong are very insufficient.

The “One Country, Two Systems Youth Forum” has just published the first research report, “Study on the career development of Hong Kong students graduated in the Mainland” in Hong Kong and has drawn up the first “Wage Index of Hong Kong students graduated in the Mainland” and “Index of Willingness to Develop in Greater Bay Area” based on the latest data. The study collected 317 valid questionnaires, accounting for about one-tenth of the total number of graduates in one year. The online survey was conducted from November 2018 to January 2019, targeting Hong Kong students who had graduated in the Mainland for 0 to 5 years. Regarding to the geographical distribution of the Mainland institutions which admitted Hong Kong students, the survey covered 63 universities in 12 provinces. The research team held 5 focus groups meetings in Hong Kong, Beijing and Guangzhou to gain insight into the development of graduates from several major disciplines such as finance, law and medicine.

 

What is meant by “Hong Kong students”? According to our report, “Research on the Issues of Identity and Income of Hong Kong People’s Education and Employment in the Mainland” published in October 2017, the number of Hong Kong students who grew up in the Mainland and those who grew up in Hong Kong was about half and half. Within the sample, 47% were born in Hong Kong, 38% were born in Guangdong Province, and 15% were born in other provinces in the Mainland and born abroad. The proportion of “local Hong Kong students” enrolled in secondary schools was about 62%.

 

At present, the proportion of Hong Kong graduates staying in the Mainland, Hong Kong, and abroad are 51%, 45%, and 3%, respectively. The ratio of working and further studies was around seven to three. When asked which city they would most likely to live in during the next five years, the most popular choice was to return to Hong Kong, followed by Shenzhen, with 16% of respondents saying that they plan to go to Shenzhen, which is more than twice the number of those currently living in Shenzhen(7.7%). This indicates that the prospect of Shenzhen looks more and more attractive.

 

In terms of discipline and current occupation, medicine (mainly Chinese medicine) is the most popular choice among Hong Kong students studying in the Mainland (20.4%), followed by economics (16.4%), law (13.3%), literature (10.5%), and business administration (10.2%). Students who chose science and engineering constitute only 10%. The most popular career choices were health care and welfare (13.6%), insurance (10.9%), finance/banking (10.9%), business and professional services (8.2%), education (8.2%) and media (6.8%). The number of people engaged in these six industries accounted for about 60% of the total number of respondents.

 

The disparity in pay between the Mainland and Hong Kong is a critical factor for Hong Kong students’ choice of destination. This study compiled the first “Wage Index of Hong Kong students graduated in the Mainland” by comparing the median wages of Hong Kong and the Mainland in the survey sample (the sample covered Hong Kong youths within five years of graduation from 63 universities in 12 provinces and cities in the Mainland). The median wage in the Mainland was RMB 8,240, and that of Hong Kong was HK$17,320. The former was 56% of the latter, so the Wage Index of Hong Kong students graduated in the Mainland in 2019 is 56. Whether the index is high or low depends on the personal evaluation on the prospects of the Mainland, and the differences in the cost of living, especially the housing costs. A Hong Kong graduate who started his business in Guangzhou said that he rented a shared two-bedroom flat for only RMB 2,000 a month in Panyu District. Whereas, in the second-tier area of Hong Kong, such as City One Shatin, the monthly rent was HK$14,000. Taking into account the different costs of living between Hong Kong and the Mainland, the gap between the net income of Hong Kong graduates who stay in the Mainland and Hong Kong is not as high as expected.

 

Our data reveals that 19% Hong Kong students graduated in the Mainland stay in the Greater Bay Area, and 41% of Hong Kong Students Graduated in the Mainland are willing to stay in the Greater Bay Area during the next three years. The figure is higher than most similar surveys for Hong Kong people in recent years. When asked whether they are willing to consider the GBA (giving the fact that salary and housing prices are lower, but development prospects are attractive), 46% of respondents indicated that they were more willing to choose the GBA. As mentioned above, Hong Kong students in Guangdong province account for more than half of the total. From the research data, Hong Kong students who graduated in the GBA choose to stay in the GBA with a higher proportion, reaching 26%, which is seven percentage points higher than the overall Hong Kong students graduated in the Mainland.

 

Establish a “Support and Development Centre for Hong Kong Students”

In terms of policy recommendations, the research team believes that the following points are worth considering. First of all, as the Hong Kong students who graduated from the Mainland understand the living environment in the Mainland and have more willingness to stay in the Greater Bay Area, a “Support and Development Centre of Hong Kong Students” should be established to support them, including more information on the application for Mainland institutions, adaptation to campus life, employment, entrepreneurship, and life counselling. Although some organizations such as the Hong Kong Student Union in the universities, other college organizations, and the alumni associations have provided similar support, they have not been able to meet the huge demand. The significance of the “Support and Development Centre of Hong Kong Students” is to integrate resources and provide a one-stop service for Hong Kong students who intend to develop in the Greater Bay Area and to learn about the local market situation and policy measures.

 

Secondly, the recognition of professional and academic qualifications remains a key problem faced by Hong Kong students, when they return to Hong Kong to work which will become an obstacle in their application for a job in Hong Kong. Take traditional Chinese medicine as an example. Hong Kong graduates who major in Chinese medicine in the Mainland and return to Hong Kong are required to take the Chinese Medicine Practitioners Licensing Examination. However, due to the problem of certification documents, it will take another year before the student can participate in the exam; students who graduate from Hong Kong can take the test immediately after graduation. It is even more difficult formutual recognition of legal qualifications between the Mainland and Hong Kong. Hong Kong lawyers’ engagement in legal work in the Mainland is limited in the “Hong Kong affairs” in the civil field, which makes lawyers from Hong Kong and the Mainland unable to be functionally equivalent.

 

The Mainland can give priority to Hong Kong Students Graduated in Mainland

 

On February 18, 2019, the PRC central government formally issued the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (the New GBA Plan), which is an important guide to the current and future cooperation and development of the Greater Bay Area. The plan announced that Hong Kong and Macao residents could apply for civil service positions in the Greater Bay Area, which implements a fair and equal treatment policy for Hong Kong and Macao residents. It is also a significant breakthrough in promoting Hong Kong people’s national identity. We further recommend that Hong Kong students graduated from Mainland universities should be given priority in the recruitment of positions involving Hong Kong affairs in the government, public organizations and state-owned enterprises in the Mainland. Hong Kong students in the Mainland have the experience of living in Hong Kong and the Mainland, and they are familiar with the social and cultural environment of Hong Kong and the Mainland. This kind of advantage can be fully utilized in the relevant Hong Kong and Macao affairs in the future. It is worthy of consideration by the relevant departments of the central government that arrange more Hong Kong students to work in the Hong Kong and Macao working departments of the major institutions in the Mainland.

 

From Henry Ho & Gordon Lam (ed.) A Debate of Two Systems, p.99

Original from:Forum page, Ming Pao.