Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is often lauded as the freest economy in the world with free trade, low taxation and minimal government intervention. In 2018, the city state posted a strong GDP growth of 3.8% and sustained high FDI inflow of USD 112 billion, ranking it 4th in the world in terms of ease of doing business. Nonetheless, Hong Kong’s open economy is susceptible to trade fluctuations and is projected to slow down in 2019 due to trade tensions between the US and China, its largest trade partners. Recent growing political pressures from the Chinese government have also put Hong Kong’s open business and independent legal environment increasingly into question.

Impressive economic growth has also not translated into equitable welfare distribution. Income gaps between the rich and the poor continue to widen as the city state recorded a Gini coefficient of 0.539 in 2017, the highest in 45 years. Hong Kong’s ageing society and shrinking labour force pose significant challenges to growth and fiscal sustainability. Meanwhile, air pollution and extreme weather events like typhoons are significant environmental risks.

Hong Kong’s social economy is characterised by foundations with sizeable philanthropic assets as well as a legacy of pronounced government support and funding for social enterprises. Corporates are steadily increasing sustainability reporting in response to the government reporting mandate. However, sustainable investing has yet to be adopted by mainstream investors or family offices. Recent developments in green finance and venture philanthropy show continued engagement with innovative social investment practices.

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Hong Kong’s 2018 Fact File

World Giving Index Rank

2017
25 26 in 2015
  • 51%giving money
  • 17%volunteering time
  • 59%helping a stranger

Population

2017
7.4 million

GDP (PPP)

2017
USD 454.9 billion World Rank 43

GDP Growth

2017
3.8%

Per capita GDP (PPP)

2017
USD 61,450 World Rank 11

Number of Millionaires

2017
117,000

Poverty

2016
14.7%

Global Competitiveness Index

2017-2018
6/137 Global Competitiveness Rank (2016-2017) - 9/138

Ease of Doing Business Rank

2019
4/190 Ease of Doing Business Rank (2018) - 5/190

Source: : ADB, Charities Aid Foundation, Credit Suisse, World Economic Forum, World Bank. Figures are accurate as of March 2019

SDG Dashboard

Hong Kong is grappling with a rapidly ageing society and a shrinking labour force. Its median age of 43 years is the 9th highest in the world and the total labour force is projected to plateau in 2019. Elderly and child poverty rates are particularly stark with 1 in 3 elderly and 1 in 4 children living below the national poverty line according to the government’s most recent statistics in 2016. The city state is also highly prone to far-reaching climate change risks, exacerbated by serious air pollution.

In 2015, the Planning Department unveiled “Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030” to guide the city state’s policy-making along 3 key building blocks:

  • Enhancing liveability by retrofitting the densely developed urban areas and optimising new development areas,
  • Equipping Hong Kong with land and space, supporting infrastructure and human capital for the economy to move up the value chain,
  • Building long-term capacity to sustain social and economic development and enhance climate change response.
In alignment with Hong Kong 2030+, the government’s 2018 policy agenda focuses on enhancing public governance, building a diversified economy and liveable city, creating better jobs and improving livelihoods.Note: Development indicators and SDG dashboard are not published separately for Hong Kong.

Source: sdgindex.org (2018)

Note: The "traffic light" colour scheme (green,yellow, orange, red) illustrates how far a market is from achieving a particular goal

Government Initiatives to Address Development Gaps

Impact Area Gap Government Initiatives
Climate action
Gap
  • Renewable energy only accounts for 1% of Hong Kong’s generating capacity.
  • Hong Kong’s 2030 carbon emissions target exceeds the C40 Cities-designated pathway by 78%.
Government Initiatives
  • Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+ aims to reduce carbon intensity by 65-70% by 2030 from the 2005 base line. Key policy measures towards this goal include reducing coal-fired electricity generation, increasing the share of renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, and achieving carbon emission peak before 2020.
Education and employability
Gap
  • The university enrolment rates of 19- and 20-year-olds from the wealthiest 10% of families and those with household incomes less than half of the median level was 9.3% and 8% respectively in 1991, but the gap widened dramatically to 48.2% and 11% in 2011.
  • 30% of young people enrolling in associate’s degree, professional diploma and similar programmes came from families living below the poverty line in 2016, but the potential earning differential from having these qualifications has fallen significantly vis-à-vis post-secondary entry into the workforce, from 40% in 1996 to 13% in 2016.
Government Initiatives
  • In the Chief Executive’s 2018 policy address, several funding schemes to promote quality education in public sector schools were announced, which include an additional HKD 1.5 billion (USD 188 million) for teachers’ professional development.
  • The government has allocated HKD 120 million (USD 15 million) for the 2019-2020 academic year to provide subsidies for students in vocational training programmes for specific industries up to HKD 36,000 (USD 4,500).
Land use
Gap
  • According to government estimates, Hong Kong will require 4,800 hectares of land in the next 3 decades but so far has only identified 2,600 hectares. Our Hong Kong Foundation, an independent think tank, suggests an even wider gap of 6,400 hectares.
Government Initiatives
  • The government is rezoning single site, multiple use, new town extensions, developing artificial islands and adopting green urban systems to improve land use.
  • From 2019 onward, 70% of housing units that are built on newly developed land will be for public housing.
Poverty alleviation
Gap
  • Hong Kong had the second highest Gini coefficient in the world at 0.539 in 2017.
  • The most recent government statistics reveal that 1 in 4 children, aged 18 and below, and 1 in 3 elderly, aged 65 and above, live below the national poverty line.
Government Initiatives
  • The government rolled out a series of enhancements for its Low-income Working Family Allowance in April 2018. The measures increased all rates of allowance and expanded the allowance to include individuals and introduced new tiers of support to better address single-parent households.
Social protection
Gap
  • As of 2017, 16% of the population was 65 years old or older. The Census and Statistics Department projects that by 2064, 36% of the population will be over the age of 65.
  • With the world’s longest life expectancy of 81.3 years for men and 87.3 years for women, Hong Kong’s demographic imbalance will only become more exacerbated with time.
Government Initiatives
  • The government’s total social welfare expenditure for 2017-2018 was over HKD 79.8 billion (USD 10 billion), which was 86% higher than the allocated amount 5 years ago.
  • The government has planned to provide an extra monthly elderly allowance of HKD 1,060 (USD 135) starting February 2019. This is in addition to the Normal and Higher Old Age Living Allowance schemes that are already in place.
  • In the 2017-2018 budget, the government earmarked nearly USD 4 billion (HKD 30 billion) for elderly services and rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities.

Social Economy

The social economy in Hong Kong is growing rapidly with strong government support, a well-established philanthropic culture and increasing corporate sustainability efforts

Category Factor Rating Description
SPOs
Factor
Presence, size, and maturity of SEs
three-quarter
  • There are more than 654 SEs operating as of end-2017 and 150 NPOs listed on the Social Welfare Department’s website as of January 2019.
  • While the majority of SEs are in the early to growth stage, it has been estimated that 60% are already profitable.
SPOs
Factor
SEs' sectoral presence
three-quarter
  • SEs focus on employment provision to socially disadvantaged groups, community development, health care, environmental protection and elderly care.
Investors
Factor
Philanthropic contributions
full
  • Institutional philanthropy is a well-established culture in Hong Kong. The city holds USD 10.6 billion worth of philanthropic assets from 2,000 foundations accounting for 3.3% of its GDP.
Investors
Factor
Managed funds
three-quarter
  • While there is some evidence of funds and family offices engaging in impact investing, overall volume remains low.
  • The strong interest and financial status of Hong Kong are not fully reflected in the still nascent sustainable finance market.
Investors
Factor
Corporate sector
three-quarter
  • Corporate sustainability has seen progressive advancement. 86% of the companies in the Hang Seng Index publish standalone sustainability reports, up from 72% in 2018.
  • There are new but relatively rare examples of corporates supporting SEs by leveraging their business models and acumen.
Enablers and Intermediaries
Factor
Policy environment
three-quarter
  • The Hong Kong government has put in place several initiatives to jumpstart green finance and pilot SIBs in the city. It has also continued support for SPOs through the SIE Fund.
Enablers and Intermediaries
Factor
Incubators, accelerators, and capacity-builders
three-quarter
  • The Jockey Club Incubation programme for Social Innovation and the Social Enterprise Business Centre under the Hong Kong Council of Social Service are some of the most notable incubators. The Social Enterprise Business Centre provides capacity building, as does OurConservatory, an intermediary to facilitate impact investments.
  • The SIE Fund has been supporting intermediaries to design and administer various programmes for the Fund’s priority areas of Capacity Building and Innovative Programmes since 2015.
Enablers and Intermediaries
Factor
Networks and platforms
half
  • AVPN, the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), CSR Asia, Hong Kong Social Entrepreneurship Forum and Hong Kong Policy Research Foundation run networks and platforms to advance social investment. The most recent new platform is SFi which promotes sustainable finance among private investors.
Enablers and Intermediaries
Factor
Knowledge and research
three-quarter
  • Local universities including Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Baptist University offer social innovation and social entrepreneurship courses to MBA and undergraduate students.
  • University of Chicago Booth School of Business is also offering Social Impact Leadership Series and courses funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
  • AVPN, British Council, Harvard University, RS Group, Our Hong Kong Foundation and SIE Fund have published various studies on the Hong Kong social economy. However, most research is on individual facets of the social economy and remains relatively siloed.
Enablers and Intermediaries
Factor
Partnerships
half
  • Notable partnerships include SVhk’s engagement with the corporate sector, RS Group’s SFi with private investors and HNWIs, and the SIE Fund’s multi-sector geron-technology initiative. However, Hong Kong is only just starting to explore blended financing and collaborative models.

partnership Partnership Opportunity

Demand & Supply of Capital in Hong Kong

Note: Data is based on AVPN's analysis. If there are any inconsistencies or errors in the information listed, please let us know at knowledge@avpn.asia
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