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Hong Kong is the world’s hardest working city, at 50 hours a week

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The working class in Hong Kong cannot complain enough about the long working hours, mediocre pay and decades of unpayable housing mortgage and healthcare.

This is only an impression portrayed in local soap opera Brick Slaves (樓奴), but the UBS Prices and Earnings 2015 report released last week justifies many of the woes faced by Hong Kongers.

The study included data from 71 cities around the globe, where Hong Kong was ranked 6th on the list of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, a 10-place place jump from three years ago.

Sky-rocketing property prices were the main driver for high living costs, with Hong Kong having the second highest household rent in the world, second only to New York City.

The top three most expensive cities to live in were New York City, Zurich and Geneva, when rent is included in living costs. Within Asia, Hong Kong is followed by Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei respectively.

The study said a furnished two-room apartment in Hong Kong costs around US$4,400 (HK$35,000) to rent per month, and a similar apartment in New York costs $US 200 (HK$1,600) more. While the difference in rents between the two cities is only HK$1,600, the disparity in income is huge.

ALSO READ: Office rents in Hong Kong continue to soar, led by Central

When it comes to purchasing power, an employee in Hong Kong can purchase an iPhone 6 by working 52 hours, while New Yorkers only need 24 hours of work to get one.

In contrast, workers in Kiev must work, on average, over 13 weeks to earn enough for the same phone. Zurich is the highest paid city in the world, where staff can buy an iPhone 6 with just 21 hours of work.

Similarly, workers in Hong Kong have to work on average nine minutes to be able to buy a Big Mac reflecting affordability, while workers in Nairobi have to work almost three hours for the same product.

No surprises in the ranking of working hours though, as Hong Kong emerged as the hardest working place on Earth, with employees putting in an average of 2,600 working hours a year, or 1000 more hours a year than Parisians, while receiving just 17 days of holidays in a year.

ALSO READ: Hong Kong considers increasing statutory holidays to 17 days

On a weekly basis, Hong Kongers average over 50 hours per week, or four more hours of work daily when compared to employees in Paris, where staff works 35 hours per week in line with new government regulations.

Employees in Shanghai must live with only seven days off, while Bangkok averages nine days of paid
vacation but 16 days of legal holidays, giving a total holiday time of 25 days.

Hong Kong has dropped to 72nd among 158 countries in United Nations’ World Happiness Report 2015, down from 64th in 2013 and 46th in 2012. With a tough working life, it is perhaps not easy to smile.

Image: Shutterstock

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