Starting salaries have stagnated in the past 20 years despite a surge in the number of students who take up tertiary education, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Hau Kit-tai, a professor of Educational Psychology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, calls the phenomenon a result of “depreciation of a diploma’s worth”. He urged the government to change the direction of its education policy.
In his 2000 policy address, Tung Chee-hwa, who served as the city’s first chief executive from 1997 to 2005, announced that 60 percent of Hong Kong’s senior secondary school leavers will receive tertiary education.
Since then, Hong Kong has seen the number of students with tertiary education diplomas increase year after year.
Data from the Census and Statistics Department shows that in 2015, there were 190,000 graduating students from eight tertiary education institutes that receive funding support from the University Grants Committee. The number was only 86,000 in 1997.
Also during the period, the number of people who received degrees from postgraduate studies jumped to nearly 40,000 from 11,000.
The 60 percent goal set by the government has already been achieved, but there is an after-effect. The fact that there are so many higher education graduates each year lowers the worth of a diploma, Hau said.
That is most likely why the median starting salary for new graduates was stuck at HK$11,000 between 1997 and 2015, according to official data.
Pointing out that seven in 10 secondary students enter tertiary education, Hau called on the government to stop encouraging people to pursue tertiary education. Otherwise, Hong Kong could end up like the United States and Taiwan, he said.
The education system of the two places have cultivated too many college graduates, who have to put up with low pay after graduation but struggle to pay back their student loans at the same time, Hau said.
He said the solution to the same problem that Hong Kong faces is that the government should change the focus of its education policy to vocational education.
The number of people participating in the programs provided by the Vocational Training Council has been between 50,000 and 60,000 each year for the past 20 years, according to government data.
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