a group of clouds in the sky over a city: Storm clouds gather above the Hong Kong skyline, as seen from a deserted Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront promenade on August 18. Photo: Sam Tsang

Storm clouds gather above the Hong Kong skyline, as seen from a deserted Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront promenade on August 18. Photo: Sam Tsang

The coronavirus pandemic has in recent months upended the employment landscape, leaving many youngsters feeling hopeless about career prospects. The youth unemployment rate has shot up to 10.4 per cent, while the overall rate is at a 15-year high of 6.2 per cent.

The government pledged in April to create 30,000 vacancies to boost job opportunities, and in June added another 5,000 or so. Sadly, most of them focused on engineering, medical, finance or technological sectors, in which specialised expertise is required. Fresh graduates without hi-tech professional qualifications would be left out of the initiative.

Before the pandemic and last year’s protests, the tourism and hospitality industry was thriving, and the city was living up to its name as a vibrant regional hub. With the surging tourist arrivals coupled with the Greater Bay Area blueprint, ambitious youngsters saw Hong Kong’s hospitality sector as a promising gateway to social mobility. Unfortunately, the virus has not only cast a deep gloom over the sector’s development, but also left well-trained graduates struggling to find other jobs.

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As a hotel and tourism management undergraduate, I fear being wiped out in a changing labour market where health care and technological expertise hold sway, while the services lag behind. The relevant authorities should find a way to equip youngsters with added-value skills so they can compete better in the increasingly “smart” market in the post-pandemic era.

Gary Lam, Sheung Shui

Take heart Hong Kong, this too shall pass

Does anyone still remember Hong Kong as the Pearl of the Orient? Its energy, creativity, world-class infrastructure, financial opportunities, east-meets-west culture, delicious cuisine and geographical advantage were once admired around the world.

Alas, 2019 and 2020 have turned Hong Kong on its head. Political storms hit one after another. The Covid-19 pandemic stuck and took away thousands of jobs. Discouraged, some people are planning to emigrate.

Above all, we have an anti-China young generation, backed by some reckless politicians and hypocrites, grumbling every day and praying for “lam caau” (burn together). Facing all these intractable problems, no wonder many Hongkongers have lost hope.

To some extent, I share their sentiments, but I am reminded of the can-do spirit that has defined our beloved city. From a small fishing village to the Pearl of the Orient, what kind of storms has Hong Kong not weathered? The 1967 riots, the waves of mass migrations, the 1997 reunification, the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, and the two financial crises in 1997 and 2008. The “descendants of the dragon” are no stranger to adversity. We will learn our lessons and come out stronger.

For Hong Kong to have a future, young people must have hope

Granted, our challenges are many. In education, we should stop exposing our kids to the culture of low aspiration and absolute freedom. The media must stop spreading fake and sensational news. Economic growth has to align with future development needs. And the government must get back on its feet to defeat populism by reinforcing an executive-led governance model.

Moving forward is not easy, and hope is vital. China’s meteoric rise could not have happened without the Chinese people sticking to their guns during testing times.

Let’s not forget there are still 27 years to go for 2047. The recent imposition of the Hong Kong national security law is a beacon of light, illustrating how swiftly change could come with the right policy in place.

The next time we climb the Lion Rock, we must look at the beautiful view from atop with a smile. The rags-to-riches stories in the city continue to inspire those willing to persevere and be daring, enterprising and hard-working.

As a university student, I am optimistic about my own future as well as that of the city. I am counting the days until I can work and start serving it.

Norman Wan, Aberdeen

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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