Pollution, Rent and Salaries in Hong Kong

In Sunday’s South China Morning Post I was not surprised to read that Western expatriates were asking for a premium to move to Hong Kong. This was particularly true if they were already based in Singapore.

Two reasons were given: pollution and high rents. Now that the SARS crisis has faded into a distant memory and the 1997 property price collapse is ancient history; rents, especially at the top end, are rising faster than a North Korean rocket. That is not even taking commercial and retail shop rents into account which are also moving up very fast.

I’ve written previous postings on the pollution problem and the word is out that Hong Kong’s air sucks big-time. Singapore, on the other hand, is rated in the top tier of Asian cities for its clean air.

A 15% hardship allowance is now standard for Hong Kong. Not too long ago, many companies dropped any hardship allowances for Hong Kong. For comparison, Manila and Jakarta expats are usually entitled to a 25% hardship allowance. Doesn’t seem right, does it?

The implications are more far reaching than worrying whether executives and managers will re-locate to Hong Kong. What about people who are here on local terms or running a small business. They are starting to leave and those who might come here are thinking of other alternatives.

My fear is that Hong Kong will price and pollute itself into a second class metropolis.