Some observations from my recent trip to Hong Kong:
1. Hong Kong’s number one economic freedom ranking would come as no surprise to anyone who just wandered its streets, without examining any economic laws. There’s more street advertising in Hong Kong than anywhere else I’ve seen in the world, and more commerce that spills onto the street in the numerous street markets. I liked the colour and light of the advertising, especially as it distracts from one downside of little regulation, a large number of very ugly and unimaginative (but presumably cheaply constructed) buildings.
2. Despite this economic freedom, Hong Kong’s free-market think tank, the Lion Rock Institute (chaired by my expatriate friend Bill Stacey), does have something to do. HK is currently debating introducing a minimum wage. Perhaps the high A$ at the moment makes this look worse, but a report issued while I was there found that the median wage in HK was only just over A$8 an hour, way less than the Australian minimum wage (though prices seemed generally lower than here). Given that HK’s per capita GDP is greater than Australia’s, this suggests very high income inequality.
3. One sign of this inequality is that there is a large servant class, mainly women from poorer Asian countries. The most interesting sociological sight while there was the maids’ day off on Sunday. Thousands of maids lay out mats and take over parks and streets for a weekly social gathering. They looked they were having a great time; I wasn’t there long enough to know whether such a stark class-ethnic divide otherwise causes issues.
4. One sign of inequality that wasn’t there in any great numbers was begging, a major nuisance in Australia, the US and Europe. The beggars I did see usually had terrible deformities. My brief visit makes it hard to confidently generalise, but the people I saw giving were not ethnically Chinese.
5. I read in a guide book that public displays of affection in HK are generally restrained. I did not notice anything to contradict that, but I have never before seen street market stalls selling sex paraphernalia. And I am pretty sure that Australian 7-11s do not have condoms at the front counter (though I presume this is to reduce the risk of them being stolen).
6. For Victorian readers: not only does HK have an excellent public transport system, but they have an electronic ticketing system that actually works. Lesson for Victorian government: Myki will only work on buses and trams if passengers only have to swipe once.
Normal blogging will now resume.