Socio-Spatial Embeddings of Economic Actions: South Asian Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong

Project: Research project

Project Details


As globalization intensifies, international migration becomes a salient phenomenon. Although the ethnic minority population in Hong Kong (HK) is relatively small, as an Asian world city, the foreign-born population has increased rapidly. Despite international and domestic complaints, the HK Government denied the existence of racial discrimination. Until the 2001 Census, the Government did not systematically collect information about ethnic minorities. It was during the 2008-2009 Budget Speech that the Government admitted for the first time the disadvantaged position of the ethnic minorities (EMs). According to the Financial Secretary, financial resources will be maneuvered to help them integrate into the community to resolve their problem of “lack of social networks.” It is doubtful whether the limited efforts could help HK’s EMs. The EMs are quite diverse in terms of citizenship, culture, socioeconomic status, clustering of residence, education, and skills. Without the proper understanding of their ethnic economies and the various strategies that different ethnic groups deal with their socio-economic daily lives within the Chinese-dominated society, the Government may reinforce the existing institutional biases against them, failing to think beyond assimilationism. There are some studies about the conditions of EMs in Hong Kong, but none of them directly examine HK’s ethnic economies. Many of them focus on racial discrimination, which are heavily inclined to victimize the EMs, hence denying them the ability and possibility to deal with socioeconomic problems by themselves. The proposed study aims to understand the economic actions of South Asian minorities in HK, through the theoretical perspective that emphasizes on their embeddings within social relationship and social institutions. Specifically, their economic actions is determined by the accumulation of human, financial, and social capitals. The accumulation processes are embedded within the ethnic economy, which is spatially and socially embedded in various local communities. Three structural factors, that is, government policy, societal reception, and co-ethnic community, together with two socio-spatial factors, that is, residential pattern and socio-demographic composition of the neighborhood, affect the forms of ethnic economy. Qualitative research methods, that is, focus group interviews, field investigation and semi-participant observation, co-ethnic media analysis, and in-depth case studies, will mainly be employed to collect relevant data. The proposed study will figure out: 1. the forms and constructions of South Asian ethnic economy in HK communities; 2. how the three structural factors and two socio-spatial factors affect the forms and constructions of these ethnic economies; 3. the economic actions of HK South Asians perform in these ethnic economies; 4. how the accumulation of human, financial and social capitals shape these economic actions. These findings will not only inform the policymakers on the ways to formulate appropriate policies on what the Chief Executive in his 2007 Policy Address stated as “promoting social harmony by helping people to help themselves” and South Asians’ problem of “lack of social network” according to the Financial Secretary, but also fill the theoretical and empirical gaps on a small-sized ethnic economy and community with advanced Asian/Chinese societies.

Funding Source: RGC - General Research Fund (GRF)
Effective start/end date01/01/1030/06/12


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