Global Reach: China and Hong Kong

China and Hong Kong
Year Work
Total Funds
Invested To Date

EMpower in CHINA and HONG KONG

Hong Kong is home to many ethnic minority people (non-Chinese), mainly from South or Southeast Asia (e.g. Pakistan, India, Nepal, Philippines or Indonesia). While the Hong Kong government has a policy designed to help mainland Chinese students and disabled students adapt and integrate into the education system, there is no such guidance for ethnic minority students in Hong Kong. As a result, they face numerous challenges to receiving a high-quality education, including:

  • Limited choice of schools: Over 60% of ethnic minority students are concentrated in about 10 public secondary schools. Students from these schools are therefore generally disconnected from mainstream society and lack interaction with Hong Kong Chinese students. Racial segregation brings long-term harmful effects.
  • Relatively low quality of education in the available educational institutions, also with lower standards compared to mainstream schools.
  • Shortage of opportunities to learn spoken Cantonese and written Chinese to compete effectively with their Chinese counterparts.

As a result, these young people —most of whom are from the lower socio-economic strata and face discrimination, limited social mobility and language barriers that result in lower educational attainment and the inability to access quality jobs—generally have low aspirations for their lives and experience a strong sense of hopelessness.

The challenges ethnic minority youth and in general young people living at the margins in Hong Kong face (the HK poverty rate stands consistently at around 20% of the total population, affecting many children and young people) have been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting government lockdowns. When schools switched to online classes, many students coming from deprived households and ethnic minority students were left behind, either because their family could not afford necessary device(s) or data needed to participate in e-learning or because they could not follow along with the online classes.

In Hong Kong, EMpower seeks to address these challenges by supporting local organizations working directly with young people and ethnic minority students from under resourced households to increase their motivation to learn, improve their academic performance, strengthen their self-confidence and resiliency, expand their horizons regarding future career options, and develop short-term and long-term life goals. EMpower is committed to their future economic well-being by enhancing inclusive learning opportunities for them.


Total population

China: 1.4 billion people

Hong Kong: 7.5 million people

China: 18% of the population is 10-24 (2020) The youth populations of China and India combined account for 1/3 of all the world’s young people.

Hong Kong: 13% of the population is 10-24 (2020)

% urban/rural Hong Kong is 100% urban and has among the highest population densities in the world; China is 60% urban.

Economy and Environment

GDP per capita

China: 9,532 USD (2018)

Hong Kong: 48,756 USD (2019)

GINI index and rank China: 38.5 (2016) (not calculated for Hong Kong)

Over the last few decades there has been remarkable economic growth in China, lifting millions out of poverty, yet challenges remain with inequality and further reducing poverty, especially in rural areas.

In 2017 92% of the population in Hong Kong was using safely managed sanitation services, 100% having access to safe drinking water.

96% of women in Hong Kong owned a mobile phone in 2018.

INFORM Risk Index score (2020): Widely-used tool to assess the risk of humanitarian crisis and disasters, including the Hazard and Exposure subscale, which includes natural disasters like earthquakes, droughts, and floods, and human disasters like conflict. China: 4.3 (Medium, stable) overall; Rank 71; Hazard and Exposure score: 6.9 (very high)

Key issues that affect youth:

Gender inequality

Rank in Global Gender Gap report China 106 (out of 153 globally; 14 out of 20 in region)

Education (Quality education, SDG4)

Education is free for 12 years, and as such universal access to primary education is nearly achieved (over 97% for both males and females). In Hong Kong, almost all children make the transition from primary to secondary school (100% males, 99% females, 2015).  At the secondary level however the latest data for Hong Kong (2014) shows that only 81% of young people are enrolled in upper secondary school, approximately equally for males and females. 5% of females who are in school are at least 2 years older than the appropriate grade for their age (2019). In China there are questions about educational quality, particularly in rural areas. Gender inequality persists and minority children (who speak a language other than the dominant Mandarin) often face additional barriers to quality education.

Livelihoods (Decent work and economic growth, SDG 8)

Youth labor force participation rate, by sex In Hong Kong, 42% of females and 40% of males between the ages of 15-24 are in the labor force (2016)

There is no official data on young people who are NEETs (not in education, employment or training) in China or Hong Kong, but recent analyses estimate that 8% of 16-35 year-olds are NEET in China, with women being more likely to be NEETs than men, and female rural-to-urban migrants being especially at risk.

Health and well-being

Internationally comparable data on adolescent health and well-being is not available for many of the indicators commonly tracked, particularly for girls. However, recent estimates find that issues like early marriage and early childbearing persist among young people in China, with large regional and ethnic group variations. Rates of HIV, while low overall, combined with China’s large population means that the country accounts for 3% of new HIV infections worldwide each year. Young people are at increasing risk, with 15% of new infections (2015) among young people 15-24, and the rate expected to increase because of the decreasing age at sexual debut and lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education.

Special populations of interest: Internal migrants, including young people who move on their own from rural areas to cities, and those who move with their parents, are a large group of particular concern. Because of the hukou system, a household registration system that ties access to social services to your home district, an individual who migrates from a rural area to a city may only access health services in their home district, not where they live, posing obstacles for young people in accessing contraception, sexual health education, and other necessary services.

Other countries in Asia:

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