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170,000 living in subdivided flats in Hong Kong: study
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) May 28, 2013


China migrant population growing, pay rises slowing
Beijing (AFP) May 28, 2013 - China's vast army of migrant workers continued to expand last year but the rate of their pay increases slowed, a government report showed, as growth in the world's second-largest economy decelerated.

The movement from China's countryside to its booming cities over recent decades has been one of the greatest human migrations of all time.

The number of migrant labourers totalled 262.6 million in 2012, up 3.9 percent from the previous year, a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) found.

The average monthly income of those who worked outside their home towns rose 11.8 percent year-on-year to 2,290 yuan ($374), it said -- but the rate of the increase was down 9.4 percentage points from 2011.

In 2012 China recorded its slowest economic growth for 13 years at 7.8 percent.

Labourers from central and western China increasingly preferred to work close to their origins with growing job opportunities in those regions and high living expenses in the more developed coastal areas in the east, the NBS said Monday.

The survey of nearly 200,000 migrants workers across the country found their average age climbing to 37.3 last year, compared with 36.0 in 2011 and 34.0 in 2008, it added.

China's ageing population is an increasingly important demographic issue, with the labour pool falling last year for the first time in decades.

More than 170,000 people in Hong Kong are living in cramped subdivided flats, a government-commissioned study has found, underlining the scale of the city's housing crisis.

Tens of thousands of low-income families and immigrants are forced to live in the tiny subdivided units, unable to afford sky-high rents in the crowded city of seven million.

Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader Leung Chun-ying has promised to make tackling the housing problem a "top priority" by boosting the number of new homes for Hong Kong people.

But the study showed the problem is even greater than previously thought, with an estimated 171,300 people living in 66,900 subdivided flats.

"About 30,600 such units do not have essential facilities such as kitchen facilities, independent toilet and water supply," Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung told reporters late Monday.

The study was carried out from January to April by Policy21, a survey organisation comprising academics from the University of Hong Kong.

The Census and Statistics Department last October estimated 64,900 people live in subdivided flats, cubicles, caged bed spaces and cocklofts, which are usually around 40 square feet (3.72 square metres).

The smallest of these cubicles cost less than HK$200 ($26) a month. But poor workmanship and lax standards in subdivided apartments often create structural dangers, hygiene problems and fire hazards.

In 2011 a fire which started in a street market killed nine people from a nearby tenement after they became trapped as they tried to escape cubicle-style flats through a maze of narrow hallways.

Many of the victims died of suspected smoke inhalation in a stairwell that appeared to have been blocked.

The Asian financial centre has some of the highest property prices in the world, driven by limited supply and speculation from wealthy mainland Chinese investors.

The government has raised real-estate purchasing and resale costs for non-local buyers in an attempt to cool the overheating market.

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