Social Investment Landscape
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.
Hong Kong’s Fact File
Hong Kong’s 2018 Fact File
USD 454.9 billion
Per capita GDP (PPP)
25 26 in 2015
World Giving Index Rank
Number of Millionaires
Global Competitiveness Index
Ease of Doing Business Rank
- 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.
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
- 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%.
- 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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The social economy in Hong Kong is growing rapidly with strong government support, a well-established philanthropic culture and increasing corporate sustainability efforts
Presence, size, and maturity of SEs
- 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.
- SEs focus on employment provision to socially disadvantaged groups, community development, health care, environmental protection and elderly care.