Generation 40s – 四十世代

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「學位貶值論」錯失焦點——「辛普森悖論」的啟示

明報
觀點
2017-09-18
趙永佳、周德威

每年當大批大學生畢業離校進入勞工市場,都總會有評論或研究報告提出「學位貶值論」,指過去一段時間,大學畢業生不論是起薪點或是工作一段時間後的薪資增長,都日見下滑,與整體勞工收入有可觀增長相形見絀。

青年整體工資增 按教育程度比較則下降

我們以1991年、2001年及2011年3次人口普查整體數據當中的5%樣本來說明。1991年25至29歲在職青年,扣除通脹後工資中位數增加了20%。同期30至34歲勞動人口工資中位數也上升近四成。但同時持有大學學位的25至29歲青年平均工資則下跌達13.6%。而同期30至34歲、大學畢業的青年工資中位數,更跌了22%。這大概就是「學位貶值論」者的最有力證據。

不過當按教育程度比較,青年工資收入顯著下降,而不按教育程度分組比較,下跌幅度則輕微得多甚至反而上升,在統計學中這個結果就是一個「辛普森悖論」(Simpson’s Paradox)。其基本含義是,兩個變量(在這裏是工資與年份)之間在不同分組裏皆有相同方向的關係;但在不作分組的時候,兩個變量的關係卻可以大大減弱、消失甚至相反。統計學家認為這個現象的主要原因,是因為有第三個(或第四個)變項在影響兩者之關係。而這裏就是組別構成的變化。

在香港,辛普森悖論顯現在25至29歲勞動人口,整體工資在2011年前之20年有相當增長;但分組計算後,除了最高(研究學位)或最低(中五或以下)組別較穩定外,幾乎所有組別的工資中位數在扣除通脹後都明顯下滑。悖論於30至34歲的勞動人口整體工資變化上就更清晰:所有勞動人口的工資由1991年的10,799元增至2001年之15,638元,而在2001至2011年則維持約1.5萬元(圖1);但分組計算後,除了中五或以下勞動人口的工資持平之外,其他學歷都明顯下降。

「學位貶值論」沒考慮人口教育水平改善

這看似矛盾的趨勢就清楚說明,這類工資水平的長期統計在分組計算後必須小心詮釋。試想,為什麼當每一組青年人的平均工資都在下降時,整體平均工資卻在20年間有增長?單單聚焦在「大學生工資跑輸大市」,除了製造「道德恐慌」外,還有什麼積極意義?

一個導致悖論的原因就是整體樣本(和所有勞工)的構成改變,例如勞動力中的教育與族裔構成或其中工資分佈的改變。這裏我們要關注的當然是人口中不同學歷的構成。在圖2,在所有25至29歲的人口當中,有大學學位或以上者由7.8%激增至37.3%;中五或以下學歷者,則由75.4%急降至40%。「學位貶值論」者只集中提出持有學位者平均工資下跌,但卻沒有考慮本港人口中教育水平改善的重點!

香港勞動人口的學歷分佈除了揭示大學畢業生平均工資在下降以外,也提醒我們,在殖民地時代的香港因高等教育長期受壓抑,只有少數「精英」能考入大學殿堂,但在1990年以後高等教育體系快速擴張,先是大學教育資助委員會系統的新生由1991年的1萬人左右,增至2013/14年的1.7萬人(雖然在2000年後增加放緩),然後是近年私立大學的擴張。

「大學生不再是天之驕子」是在先進國家中十分正常的社會進步象徵。當然我們必須關注大學畢業生的出路問題,但他們的長期工資趨勢,因為大學畢業生在整體人口中翻了幾番之後,事實上已不能直接比較。換另一角度看,比起1991年多了幾倍年輕人能擺脫低學歷低工資,而得到學士水平的中等工資。

而只聚焦畢業生工資,也忽略很多青年勞動市場問題。其中最嚴重的當然是低學歷者工資水平在過去20年幾乎無大改變的情况。要知道,教育水平較低者平均工資本來已經是最低,但現在就更低!似乎社會更應關注的,是在2011年佔25至29歲人口40%和22.7%的只有中五、中五以上和學位以下的青年人勞動市場的處境。

青年人的處境是社會必須注意的議題,不過現在有關青年「問題」的討論都受不同因素影響。而當更多學界以外的社會團體加入討論,卻會令問題更難聚焦,容易以偏概全。「下流」現象可能是所有年輕人都在面對的問題,但並不是只在大學生當中發生。他們的「怨氣」也不光是只源自「搵食艱難」;所謂「上游」、「下流」,甚至可能不是最主要因素。

以數據闡釋 須注意會否呈現片面「現實」

我們非常關注大學生的職場發展。我們認為學界一方面要檢視他們在本科的訓練是否能協助同學將來在不同進路的生涯發展,而另一方面也要把討論放大至香港整體經濟發展的方向與結構,才可以為青年人的出路提供更多機會。

辛普森悖論的出現,也提醒我們「科普工作」(現在流行叫「知識轉移」)的重要。在社會科學和統計學訓練中,如何應用和詮釋數據是重要一環。在公眾討論中以數據闡釋議題就是在進行翻譯工作,但在過程中會否只呈現片面的「現實」,卻是我們在公共領域發聲所必須注意的環節。

(作者按:本文的分析為兩名作者在中文大學香港亞太研究所任職時所完成,特此致謝)

作者趙永佳是香港教育大學社會科學系講座教授,周德威是理工大學專任導師

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If Singapore can groom political talent for good governance, why can’t Hong Kong?

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-09-07
Gary Wong Chi-him says that if Carrie Lam wants more effective governance in Hong Kong, she should look to Singapore’s political cultivation process, not its civil service training

During her maiden official trip to Singapore, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor visited the country’s Civil Service College, admitting that it was her second attempt to learn from the vision of the local academy. In the face of new global challenges, professional training for public servants is important, but the Singapore government’s great foresight is not merely the result of a civil service training facility. Rather, its rigorous system in recruitment and development of political talent is key.

Lee Kuan Yew, founding prime minister of Singapore, once stated that the key to the country’s success was “the best and brightest doing the most outstanding jobs”, meaning political talent doing political work.

One must overcome many hurdles to represent the People’s Action Party in Singapore’s general elections. According to Men in White: The Untold Story of Singapore’s Ruling Political Party, candidates must complete an IQ exam, psychological test with more than 1,000 questions and two face-to-face interviews for clinical assessment. Doctors examine childhood and family life, educational background, experience with national service, sex psychology history, marriage habits, social activities, health, work experience, finances, life philosophy and political motivation. However, past performance in grass-roots work is given higher priority than the psychological test. In the past, Lee Kwan Yew disapproved of some outstanding civil servants due to their lack of ability to work with grass-roots communities and labour unions.

Singapore strongly believes that dealing with low-income groups is the starting point of political training. Political newcomers must begin working in the grass-roots community and climb up step by step. After winning in the general elections and building a solid power base, they may finally enter the government to serve as cabinet ministers or in other high-level leadership positions.

In Singapore, members of Parliament, including the cabinet ministers, meet the residents of their constituencies every week – a programme known as a “meet-the-people session”. I have attended one such session, which began at 7pm and officially ended at midnight. Since there is no specific closing time, the MPs met all the residents who came for help.

Singapore highly values nurturing successors in political leadership. Early in the 1980s, Lee Kwan Yew began talent-hunting across the nation for people in their 30s and early 40s, with academic brilliance and distinguished careers, to join the political arena.

During each general election, the PAP requests a third of its MPs give up their seats for new candidates. Prime Minister Lee Hsien-loong believes this turnover rate allows each MP to serve an average of three terms, or about 15 years. In Singapore, if one begins a political career at 37, he or she would only be around 50 on completing 15 years of public service. Singapore emphasises recruiting talent from outside the establishment. Lee Kwan Yew did not want to see a situation where cabinet members hold similar views, leading to “ideological inbreeding”. Currently, the PAP actively recruits talent from think tanks, religious groups, business corporations, community organisations and other fields. Those with political talent are encouraged to have different ideologies, but must agree on core values, handle problems logically and share the goal of solving political problems.

Beyond providing training for civil servants, perhaps Hong Kong more urgently needs a structure for developing political talent. Hong Kong’s chief executive often faces difficulties in forging an effective cabinet, final appointees rarely share a common vision, and the poor organisation process leads to public criticism. Moreover, most appointed officials have no experience in grass-roots politics and elections.

Discussions of Singapore’s political talent system are not intended to encourage Hong Kong to replicate Singapore’s model, but to caution the government to deepen their examination into effective strategies that better discover, nurture and sustain talent in public service. After all, good governance cannot depend on capable public servants – it requires excellent political leaders.

Gary Wong Chi-him is governor of the Path of Democracy


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There’s more to life than making money, even in Hong Kong

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2017-08-29

Peter Kammerer

Peter Kammerer comes to terms with his son’s decision to give up a well-paid job for love, overcoming the typically Hong Kong attitude that prioritises work and making money over life experiences

When my 26-year-old son told me he was going to throw in his well-paid job as a personal trainer to go to live with his girlfriend in Paris, I went nuts. Had he bothered looking at the unemployment statistics for under-30s in France? Was he aware of how difficult it would be getting a job in a place where speaking fluent French was essential in his line of work? Why wasn’t his girlfriend doing what so many of her country men and women had done and come to Hong Kong instead?

But my son is single-minded when it comes to what he wants. He also has an EU passport, which makes handing in his resignation letter, buying an air ticket and packing up straightforward. To placate me, he argued that he wants to see the world before he’s married and besides, in his line of work, it’s relatively easy to find business. Anyway, if things don’t work out in Europe, as a Hong Kong permanent resident, he can just return and pick up where he left off.

It’s the same logic that took me to Britain and then Hong Kong in the 1980s. I’ve never regretted those decisions, the enjoyment and knowledge gained being, as they say, part of a rich tapestry. Yet, after all the arguments with friends and work colleagues, it’s only recently I’ve been convinced. I believe it’s because having lived in Hong Kong for so long, I’ve been brainwashed into thinking that making money is more important than life experiences.

It’s a conclusion apparent from the starkly different opinions of people born and bred in Hong Kong and those raised elsewhere I’ve broached this with. The Hongkongers typically believe anyone who puts fun before money has their priorities wrong. Those with an overseas upbringing wondered what I was worried about, contending that when someone is young and financially unburdened by a mortgage or children, they should make the most of it. Besides, the latter group says, in a world of borderless job opportunities, what’s the problem?

I’ve a feeling Hong Kong has made me narrow-minded. Certainly, it’s the way many young Hongkongers seem to have been raised. They want the government to assure they get meaningful jobs, homes of their own, a decent standard of living and the rights and privileges of Western democracies. They are being unrealistic.

The cost of living in a city is naturally going to be high for anyone low on the employment ladder, as most recent school graduates are. Hong Kong’s housing prices appear steep for those who are just starting out, but if the widely accepted gauge of paying about one-third of income on rent is applied, shared accommodation or a subdivided flat is affordable for the majority. Experience, hard work and dedication improve circumstances, as my son well knows. Political aspirations are something else, though; there’s no perfect system of governing and there will always be those who are dissatisfied, which is why governments have to be as inclusive as reasonably possible when it comes to making decisions.

But for those who feel stifled or don’t see hope, there’s also a big, wide world beyond Hong Kong’s 2,755 sq km boundary. It’s full of possibilities. A foreign passport isn’t necessary to access them; all that is required is a sense of adventure. The mainland has far more than Hong Kong can hope to offer and it’s even in the same country, if biases can be set aside.

But there’s something else for younger Hongkongers to keep in mind; there’s more to living than making money. My elder son is following that principle as he plans the next chapter of his life. In his case, it’s about love – and who am I to argue with him about that?

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post


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新世代我行我路

信報財經新聞
忽然文化
2017-08-05

占飛

2008年金融海嘯後,各國大印銀紙,量化寬鬆,固然避免了經濟大蕭條,但貧富懸殊加劇,工作愈來愈不穩定,本來是社會穩定中流砥柱的中產階級愈來愈貧窮,新一代青年上流機會愈來愈渺茫。社會撕裂和對立愈來愈嚴重。這樣的情況可以持續多久?

中產階級是個很籠統的概念,有不同的定義。簡要言之,現時社會大部分財富掌握在1%人口的巨富和大財團手裏。其餘99%的人口,大概有半數以上是中產階級,他們憑專業知識和技能賺取收入,包括白手興家的小企業家。其餘是低技術工人、打散工的窮人,以及靠公援維生的基層。中產階級也可分高中產(upper middle class)及低中產(lower middle class)。前者通常是大學畢業和取得專業資格的人士,例如醫生、律師、建築師、工程師之類。後者則是學歷和專業資格較低,因而收入及不上前者的人士,例如護士、白領、中、低級公務員等等。

大學生不值錢

昔日,能晉身中產階級,代表一生生活安定。他們未必能致富,但職位無憂,有足夠收入買房子、車子、結婚生兒育女、追求有品味的生活方式,看藝術電影、出外旅遊、買精品、當業餘收藏家……最重要的是,保證子女能入讀名校、接受精英教育,長大後如父母般做個專業人士,成為中產階級,不致向下流動,淪為基層草根。

在香港,五十後至七十後的世代,無論出身中產還是基層,都是通過教育晉身中產階級。是以中產階級特別肯花錢培育子女成才,亦特別緊張子女的學業成績。二戰後的教育制度,剪裁成向中產階級的子女傾斜。出身窮家的孩子,只有少數能通過考試晉身高或低中產,大多數只能安安份份地做低技術的基層工作。

1990年後,大學學位大量增加,表面上增加了青年向上流動的機會。殊不知大學畢業生的「價值」亦遵從供求定律。大學畢業生愈多愈不值錢,要找份高薪、穩定、有前途的工作愈來愈困難,入職工資卻十多年來停滯不前,甚至下跌。

追尋興趣為先

大學畢業再無任何保證了,怎能怪年輕一輩「重利輕義」,憂心忡忡,先是不滿,終至憤慨呢?是以無論出身哪個階級,凡是不求聞達、只求無災無難過一生的孩子,一旦公開試考得優異成績,便蜂擁去讀醫,因只有學醫可以保證有份穩定的工作和收入也! 這不等於說:凡醫學生都胸無大志。懷抱濟世理想的醫學生還是有的,卻少之又少,且多是家境較豐裕,不急於賺錢供養父母的一群!在香港,半個世紀前已經如此,絕非於今為烈。

另一方面,中產階級父母教育水平較高,思想較開明,亦較尊重子女的意願,尤其是本身已累積足夠財富,毋須子女反哺者,多能容許/支持子女選擇專業或職業時以興趣和理想先行,而毋須顧慮金錢或「前途」,反正在這個世代,走大眾心目中的陽關大道,未必是最聰明的選擇,因競爭對手多,本事不足,就算醫科畢業,也未必一定「前途似錦」。行少人問津的羊腸小徑,亦可以有自己的一片晴朗藍天。

有大才或大志者,往往不願跟大隊,我走我路。周梁淑怡當年是名校聖保羅男女小學和中學的畢業生,畢業於香港大學。那是港大畢業生還是「天子門生」的時代,厚職任擇。她卻偏偏入無綫電視工作,由低做起。結果,她30歲已出任製作經理,31歲已升為助理總經理。同是港大畢業的黃霑,教了2年書後,24歲投身廣告界,迅即升為副經理,30歲不到已做到創作總監。35歲創業,有自己的廣告公司,且業績驕人。試問,兩人若去讀醫,能夠年紀輕輕就有同樣的成就嗎?

當然,今時不同往日,七十年代香港經濟騰飛,要在各新興行業冒出頭來,機會多的是。是以當年的年輕人大多不求安穩,亦最不屑做公務員或教師一類「安穩」工作,寧願投身江湖闖一番事業,縱使到頭來一事無成,也好過無風無浪度半生。

年輕人本性喜浪漫、愛冒險。今之年輕人也許亦如是,故而既有人競相求安穩,也有人像羅拔佛洛斯(Robert Frost)詩中所說的take the road less travelled by。

撰文:占飛


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Millennials are just misunderstood, and divisive coverage is not helping

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-07-20
Kelvin Lee says media and social stereotypes of Gen Y only deepen the generation gap, when it can be easily bridged with dialogue and empathy

It is possible to make fun of millennials over almost anything these days. Take Tim Gurner, an Australian millionaire property mogul who recently took millennials to task. His preferred “angle”? Avocado toast. “When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for 19 dollars and four coffees at four dollars each,” He told Australia’s 60 Minutes. If only that “avocado money” could buy you a flat.

In case you have not been keeping close tabs on the “millennial beat”, our generation is portrayed as one that just can’t seem to get it right. Time suggested in its “Me Me Me Generation” edition that millennials are more narcissistic because of modern technology, while the Post’s own Peter Kammerer suggested that millennials are lazy because Hong Kong employs too many maids. We are, in no particular order: insecure but, as aforementioned, narcissistic; vacation-killing but work-averse; “more generous than you think” but still selfish. If there is one consensus, it would be that our generation is simply the worst.

But just what is a millennial? While “young people” might seem like an intuitive answer, it might not be precise enough. According to researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss, millennials are people born between 1982 and 2004, aged anywhere between 12 and 35. This roughly 20-year difference in age means that while the oldest among us might very well have married and had children, the youngest are just getting started in secondary school.

Not many will disagree that today’s 13-year-old and 35-year-old have had vastly different upbringings. When the 35-year-old was born in 1982, Hong Kong was still under British rule, personal computing was still in its infancy, and Madonna was still a thing.

The cultural, economic and political shifts in this 20-year window mean that characterisations based on the age group of millennials are just broad-stroke stereotypes that hold little truth, and that social commentaries blaming millennials for killing anything, from cinemas to department stores, are, in reality, intellectually lazy arguments that oversimplify social phenomena.

Indeed, “Gen Y” is not the first generation to be at the receiving end of these unfair, ageist comments – New York magazine dubbed the ’70s the “Me Decade”, while Time later likened the 20-something Gen X’ers to Madonna’s hit song Vogue, noting they know how to “strike a pose”, so implying their superficiality. But with online journalism and the media’s incessant need for clicks, coverage these days has only grown more whimsical in tone and outlandish in content.

These divisive articles have created a schism between millennials and practically everyone else. In Hong Kong, for example, articles on “post-90s” and “post-80s”, the preferred description of millennials here, have proliferated in recent years. Millennials are condescendingly labelled “rubbish teens”, a term that describes young people as slackers that demand much from society but don’t contribute, and are judged for not having the same value set as our parents.

Even the most innocuous stories can fire up generational warfare – stories and videos documenting how some young people refuse to give up priority seats on the MTR [5], and how a civil discussion on domestic workers can turn into a full-on attack on our values and our supposedly morally decadent lifestyle. This knee-jerk response of blaming it on the young has been anything but constructive in bridging differences in our communities, and will only continue to perpetuate intergenerational misunderstanding.

Perhaps it is time for this trend to end. While millennials should be more communicative with other generations, we should not be treated with condescension, or simply dismissed for our youth and inexperience. We don’t need special treatment – we just need to be treated like everybody else.

Each generation faces challenges that are unique and might not be understood by those with a different upbringing, even people within this “millennial” umbrella might have had different experiences growing up. Only dialogue and an appreciation of differences could bridge the generational gap.

Kelvin Lee is a business student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology