Social Stratification and Inequality: An Analysis of Hong Kong’s Society
One of the most pressing global challenges confronting the world now is what to do with poverty and the over one billion individuals who live in destitute circumstances. This is one of the most important global concerns facing the world today. In The uses of global poverty: How economic inequality benefits the West, Eglitis (2010), the question on why the rich seem to do less in relation to helping the poor is addressed. The author digs deep into the concept of global poverty, pointing out why it exists and persists despite the interconnectedness of the world today. By applying the social conflict theoretical perspective, the main argument provided is that global poverty aids in ensuring survival but not the prosperity of the poor in a way that the West continues to benefit from the poverty of the non-industrialized nations.
2. The Global Poverty Concept
A major feature of global inequity is the accumulation of wealth in a small number of nations, which has a significant influence on the opportunities accessible to inhabitants of weaker and less powerful nations. It is common to see poverty and affluence side by side in close vicinity to each other. The two components are connected in the world since they have an effect on each other and affect both the ability and willingness of states to ensure a steady international order, which are both intertwined. Globalisation, particularly in relation to poverty, raises problems about the responsibility of richer persons and governments toward the impoverished and most vulnerable.
2.1 Global Poverty Definition
Global poverty is defined as the number of people who live below $1.90 each day in any given country. As defined by the World Bank (2020), an individual who earns just under $1.90 a day is regarded to be living in severe poverty. There are now more than a billion poor people on the planet, accounting for one out of every 7 people on the planet (Aguilar & Sumner, 2020). Children are particularly vulnerable, accounting for over 50 per cent of the poorest in the world population (Ravallion, 2020). The most significant causes of global poverty include reduced access to jobs and livelihoods, conflict, inequality, poor education, a lack of infrastructure, a lack of reserve resources, and limited government capacity. However, Eglitis (2010) note that the existence of such extreme levels of global poverty today are a means to ensure the welfare of western consumers through affordable products. For example, child labor, low wages, sweatshops, and migrant workers are some of the great benefits to the industrialized countries. The western countries are able to increase their profit margins. For example, industrial giants such as Apple and other manufacturers from the west are moving their production to poorer nations such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and China. The reason for this is to expand their profit margins by exploiting the local standards through cheaper labor and other inequalities.
2.2 Global Poverty Application in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, Eglitis (2010) perspective on global poverty is applicable. There is a deep divide between the rich and the working class. The rich make only a small section of the ruling class, yet all the vital decisions of running the society are made by this very small group. Hong Kong is among the nations with the greatest rates of inequality among developed countries. Weekly violent widespread protests in prior years, followed by the COVID-19 epidemic, disproportionately harmed the precariously employed, widening the already widening difference between wealthy and poor even further (Wu & Chou, 2021). The end of the globalisation trend that made Hong Kong into the international powerhouse it is today, on the other hand, is having a detrimental influence on the city’s economy. The aid provided by the state is pitifully inadequate.
While political instability has flared up in recent years in Hong Kong, the country’s economic prosperity and terrible social consequences are cause for alarm. While Hong Kong is well-known for its thriving economy in terms of wealth, housing, and health, the reality that some individuals have benefited more than others and others have seen their gaps in these areas expand demonstrates that not everyone has participated in the advantages equitably. Poverty, as a component of the larger picture of social inequality, is a complicated issue that is entwined with a variety of other socioeconomic disadvantages. Despite recent advances, pervasive hardship and injustice continue to haunt people worldwide. Hong Kong’s experience may provide insight on the scope, magnitude, and nature of poverty and social disadvantage, as well as the social and economic sources and repercussions of these issues (Yang, Paudel, & Jiang, 2021), not forgetting the role that policy may play in alleviating the underlying problems. Despite the city’s unique history, cultural traditions, institutional and administrative structures, Hong Kong’s contemporary society continues to face difficulties and possible solutions.
3. Intergenerational Poverty in Hong Kong
Historically, people earning less than the poverty line have been the focus of poverty studies, which identifies those unable to satisfy their basic necessities. In contrast to the quantity of accessible resources (in this case wealth and money), deprivation is more concerned with the outcomes in terms of acceptable living standards. Financial and material deprivation (together with other variables) have a direct effect on the behaviors and social processes that cause individuals to seek and accept social exclusion, and these are the elements that are the focus of the social exclusion approach (Nghia, 2010). All of these related but unique notions interact differently with various types of social support and have varying policy consequences, including poverty (a lack of money and basic resources), deprivation (an inability to achieve widely recognized basic necessities), and social exclusion (a lack of ability to participate in traditional activities).
Intergenerational poverty is a social concept that is best highlighted in the Hong Kong society, a rich nation with aspects of poverty. Intergenerational poverty is defined by Castro Campos et al. (2016) as poverty caused by a person’s parents’ socially or economically challenging background. There are more than 120,000 impoverished households in Hong Kong with children under the age of 18 (Lau & Bradshaw, 2018). Because there are significant gaps between the lowest and higher classes in Hong Kong, education will not be able to address intergenerational poverty. The fundamental cause of poverty is a deficiency in social capital (Scorza et al., 2019). The system of social relationships that exist between individuals, as well as their common interests and rules of conduct, that facilitate and promote mutually beneficial social collaboration, is referred to as social capital. Poverty is strongly linked to a poor societal interconnectedness and low-quality social networks. The social network perspective is sufficient in explaining why the Hong Kong society is as separated as it is in terms of social and economic wellbeing.
In conclusion, the social conflict theoretical perspective presents that global poverty aids in ensuring survival but not the prosperity of the poor. This perspective is not only evident in the way the West continues benefit from the poverty of the non-industrialized nations, but also in the manner through which rich societies such as Hong Kong continue to see a deep disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Hong Kong’s rich society portrays intergenerational poverty as well as it shows the concept of global poverty. Even with state assistance, the social, political, economic, and legal parameters are not enough to curb the problem.
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