Young People living in Public Housing Estates in Hong Kong

Pearl Jephcott’s pioneering study of youth leisure, Time of One’s Own, sets a benchmark for exploring alterations to young people’s work, education, and leisure in Scotland since the 1960s. Jephcott was also a pioneering global scholar, contributing to the tremendous number of youth studies published in Hong Kong during the 60s and 70s. Many of these studies were designed to capture the challenges young people faced after the 1967 riots – the first time in Hong Kong history where young people and workers took to the streets and participated in social movements. Much of this research aimed to show how young people adapted to the subsequent large-scale reforms in education (e.g. 9-year compulsory and free education), housing (e.g. the launch of public housing), city planning (e.g. the development of satellite cities in Tsuen Wan and Kwai Chung), and transportation (e.g. the development of mass transit railway). Jephcott’s study (1971) was prescient in that it captured the situation of children and youth in Hong Kong before these large-scale developments. In the study, young people were reported as being committed to work, with leisure very peripheral.

Hong Kong has witnessed significant social change since the 1960s and 70s.  It has grown to be one of the most successful economies in the world, though many people still live in poverty and the gap between rich and poor is rising. Wealthy inhabitants live in luxurious apartment buildings but over 2 million people live in government subsidized housing (about 30% of the population). Against this backdrop, young people have been facing shifts in family values, employment structure, participation in social movements, and forms of media and technology, among many others (see Youth Trends).

In the (Re)Imagining Youth study we are looking into experiences of youth leisure in one of the largest public housing estates in Hong Kong. As a locally born researcher, who grew up in public housing estates, I have witnessed and experienced the changes of youth leisure due to the public housing development over the years. From 7-storey high buildings, with no kitchen and bathroom inside, to 40-storey high skyscrapers with self-contained domestic units, public housing in Hong Kong has provided very different spaces and experiences for young people over time. Below are some of the images I have taken of Hong Kong public housing estates over the years. I have a passionate interest in visual sociology and am keen to explore this approach further in the current study. 

Leona LI Ngai Ling, Research Assistant


Low-rise public housing estates



High-rise public housing estates









Public space



Wet market



Car park





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