As we enter adulthood, we start to taste life’s many different flavours – including the bittersweet. We have to stand on our own two feet, make our own living and stop relying on our families. We become aware of the responsibilities on our shoulders. Some might describe this as a “moment of awakening”, the beginning of an exciting adventure, or perhaps, the prelude to the loss of innocence.
For Hong Kong’s youth the “moment of awakening” finds them in a rapidly changing society with unprecedented challenges arising from their place in space and time, in an increasingly globalised and digital world. As they grapple with these challenges, the future pillars of our society also have to contend with the label of “useless youth” (廢青) that is now frequently used by members of the older generation to criticise young people. It is a caricature of the young that paints them as shallow, work-shy, feckless and “radical”. But are these charges fair?
Instead of stereotyping young people this way, Varsity wants to look at the present and future circumstances awaiting the city’s youth, the challenges they face and the choices they make in responding to them. We decided to look at three issues – namely, social engagement, work and family.
Hong Kong society has been more polarised since the end of the Occupy Movement while youngsters who participated in the movement ponder how to face the city’s political predicament. Their efforts failed to win any concessions and the political reform proposal the government tabled to the Legislative Council strictly followed the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s (NPCSC) framework. The controversial plan was eventually vetoed in the Legislative Council in June this year, six months after the Occupy Movement was ended.
With a new round of political reform nowhere on the horizon, and disappointed with the government, youngsters have adopted different approaches to deal with their sense of powerlessness. Some are prepared to take more radical action, some have given up hope and plan to emigrate, while others are striving to carve out space for rational discussion. We try to find out why they made such different choices.
Another challenge our young people face is the changing work environment. The International Labour Organization says the traditional employment model we consider “work” is no longer dominant. Employers are offering fewer full-time positions and employing more freelancers, while there are more and more start-ups in the business market. Many young people have a romantic view of freelancers and start-ups but is striking out on our own all that it is cracked up to be?
Lastly, we take a look at young people’s changing concept of family. Here, the disputes related to the Occupy Movement have yet to disappear. The arguments heard on the streets were also frequently heard around dinner tables. Varsity finds that generational differences on politics also echo differences in how young people view the idea of family. We polled more than 300 young people to gauge their opinion on what makes a modern family, on marriage and on having children.
As young people ourselves, we are excited to present this issue of Varsity to you. Before we fully step into the adult world, we sincerely hope we can show you a snapshot of our generation and together reflect on the society we belong to in this time and place. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did making it.