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Low Well-Being Damaging Corporate Hong Kong

Low Well-Being Damaging Corporate Hong Kong

by Daniela Yu and Steve Wang

HONG KONG -- Fewer than one in four (23%) Hong Kong workers rate their lives well enough to be considered "thriving" -- one of the lowest levels among all developed Asian economies Gallup surveyed in 2011.

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Gallup classifies respondents as "thriving," "struggling," or "suffering" according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. Respondents are not asked to classify their lives according to these labels. Those who rate their present life a 7 or higher on the ladder and their life in five years an 8 or higher are classified as thriving, while those who rate both dimensions a 4 or lower are considered suffering. Respondents whose ratings fall in between are considered struggling.

In general, a high level of thriving is positively related to GDP per capita. However, in Hong Kong, this appears not to be the case. Although Hong Kong's GDP per capita is second only to Singapore among developed Asian economies and is among the highest in the world, most workers do not see themselves as thriving. Workers' low well-being may be hurting their productivity -- and by extension, their company's productivity -- threatening the sustainability of Hong Kong's economic success.

Less than half of workers (45%) consider themselves "extremely productive" in their current jobs, ranking Hong Kong at the bottom of developed Asia and of all 22 Asian economies Gallup surveyed in 2011.

Financial and Career Woes May Negatively Affect Well-Being in Hong Kong

Hong Kong workers' evaluations of their financial and career situations may help explain their relatively low overall well-being.

The rising cost of living, which has outstripped income growth in Hong Kong, is significantly affecting workers' Financial Well-Being -- their way of managing their personal economics and their level of financial security. According to the Hong Kong Land Registry, home prices surged 70% from 2009 to a 14-year high in June, placing them increasingly out of reach for most residents. Gallup finds Hong Kong workers' satisfaction with affordable housing declined to 43% in 2011 from 68% in 2008. In addition, food prices have risen significantly in recent years, and depreciated Hong Kong dollars further increased the financial pressure on residents.

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Employed workers' relatively limited career prospects may also be contributing to their low well-being. More than six in 10 (62%) workers in Hong Kong said they didn't learn anything interesting "yesterday" and half (50%) were dissatisfied with the availability of good job opportunities in their communities.

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This dissatisfaction with good job opportunities may be partly attributable to an influx of mainland and foreign talents, which is outpacing the growth of quality jobs. The government has encouraged talent inflow: Currently, about 14,000 jobs need to be filled by 2018 to meet Hong Kong's increasing demand for labor, prompting the Labour and Welfare Bureau to aggressively lure "higher educated" workers from overseas. This has intensified competition for quality jobs, jeopardizing Hong Kong employees' career prospects, as they find themselves overlooked for higher paid positions and promotions. Consequently, people may feel they are far less productive at work, as they are stagnant in their jobs.


Gallup research finds a direct link between low Career Well-Being -- defined as workers' views of their own job situation -- and low productivity and retention. Gallup also finds poor Financial Well-Being can lead to employee disengagement and even harm their mental and physical health. While employers in Hong Kong have little control over macroeconomic trends, they can and should consider strategies to improve employees' Financial and Career Well-Being.

Achieving financial security is vital to improving employees' Financial Well-Being. But this means more than giving employees higher wages. In fact, Gallup has found that financial security is nearly three times more important to employees' well-being, compared with income alone. Organizations can positively influence their workers' sense of security by offering education programs to help employees make better decisions on how they spend their money and how they save for retirement.

Gallup's research suggests that Career Well-Being may be the most important element to achieving high overall well-being, given how closely it relates to one's daily experiences. Employees with low Career Well-Being start to disengage -- meaning they lose interest in their work -- after 20 hours in a given week. To improve employees' Career Well-Being, companies should look to change the typical mindset that equates career growth with promotion. Among many of the solutions, investing in employees' development can encourage them to invest in their own well-being. For example, by focusing on developing employees' strengths, companies can better motivate them and minimize disengagement, which ultimately leads to better Career Well-Being -- and higher productivity.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact us.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2011 in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. For results based on the total sample of adults employed by employers, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from ±3.2 percentage points to ±3.8 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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