The Ugly Faces of Unemployment

By P. Chong                                                                                      Wednesday 16 December 2009

The number of unemployment is not just a statistic as viewed upon by authorities in the seat of government. All they talk about in meetings is in terms of figures, single- digit or double-digits, devoid of compassion or understanding. Every figure represents a person – male or female, husband or wife, father or mother in a family of kids depending for food, clothing, shelter, education, love & care etc.

    • Unemployment is like a virus that seeps through the healthy body & rips the inner soul of man.

  • For practical purposes, let’s define unemployment – is it just being in a state of out of work or employment? The truth is unemployment is a serious matter & takes on many more aspects than what’s simply stated or officially considered. In reality, the official measure of unemployment is dubious to say the least. Strictly, unemployment should take into consideration:

    1. of people who stop looking for a job – “discouraged” &* basically given up looking for work

    2. of people who are now “underemployed” – having had to switch from full-time to part-time work with a cut or shortfall in salary

    3. category of people known as “marginal attached” workers

    4. some people because of pride & dignity refuse to even register.

By official reckoning, unemployment is often understated & does not reflect the true sorry state of affairs among the population. Considering the predicament that these people are presently in, the question arises is whether they will ever find jobs comparable to what they once had. By and large, only some will, but the great majority will not. People might have to be retrained to attain new skills in order to find alternate work. Those who have been enjoying tremendous bonuses & over-the-top overtime payouts in good times will be the hardest hit.

In truth, there are cases of engineers driving taxis & former managers operating as mere casuals. It is shocking to find people who were used to racking in $70,000 or more now drawing pittance & fighting for survival. Debts set in & misery prevails.

Unemployment can breed a host of societal ailments: depression, suicide, theft & robbery, murder, drug & drink problems among the main cases. What of family quarrel, break-down in marriages, separation & divorces, homeless kids & delinquents, homelessness among the adults? It’s a kind of vicious cycle, adding more financial burden & administrative problems to the state. Health care facilities will be taxed.

In the final analysis, all these issues raise serious questions about the sustainability & rate of economic recovery with the mounting debts & credit hangovers. How long will all these problems drag on? How will the story end?

With excesses there can be no successes

Here people will suffer pain without gain.

This is a real shame

Playing with human dignity is no game!

Try to get by on unemployment benefits & pay your taxes

if you have anything at all to spare!

The Longest Escalator System in the World


As a question of national pride and prestige, nations have all strived to build the tallest structures. Typically, the World Trade Centre in New York City, has been challenged by the Petronas Twin Towers of Malaysia & the 101 Taipei Tower. With the demise of the former brought about by the unforgettable event of September 11, 2001 what other man-made structures will inspire others to rise tall from the ground? In the oil-rich Arab world, Dubai is the place mad & crazy with the most unimaginable & superb structures in the world.

450px-HK_Mid-Level_Escalators.jpg The Elgin Street Entrance – Central-Mid-Levels Escalator

There will always be something for the nations in the world to boast about. Smaller nations like to show the world that they are coming of age and are equally able to produce this and that. It’s not necessary to boast only of structures that are out of this world, for there are feats of accomplishment very down to earth. In the bustling streets of Hong Kong Island, there is this humble and perhaps little known structure – the longest escalator in the world!

200px-Central-Mid-levels_escalator_.jpgInside The Escalator – Right Downward Walk Descent

Twisting up through Hong Kong’s narrow streets is the world’s longest escalator system, spanning over 800m. This is the Central-Mid-levels escalators (traditional Chinese: 中環至半山自動扶梯) – yes indeed the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The escalators, moving walkways and pedestrian bridges connect the downtown financial district to the mid-levels, a upscale neighborhood of condominium towers where many executives live.

494376004_27321b2302_o.jpgConnecting Pedestrian Bridgertw_2004.1149530220.p1010259.jpgShops, Restaurants Galore With Easy Access

While skyscrapers demand and necessitate the use of lifts, the hilly topography of the streets in the Central District of Hong Kong requires the ease and convenience of vertical ascent through the use of a series of travelators and escalators. Starting from Queen’s Road Central/Queen Victoria Street Junction, it ends up at Conduit Road. For a greater part of the stretch, the escalators made their way up along Shelley Street. Imagine if you have to climb by the traditional step way! It’s truly amazing, providing an interesting feature of sight-seeing quite unlike any other. Be prepared to use the steps on the way down.

Along the way it cuts through such major roads as Hollywood Road, the area known for its antique, Bridges Street, Cains Road and Robinson Road. The end of each stretch offers something of interest to the tourists. If you are on the hunt for antiques of ceramic wares, hungry for a taste of delicious noodles, or just to photograph the quaint shops, every junction provides you the thrill of the day. As you ascend, you begin to wonder how the early settlers built upon such a hilly environment with such scanty flat land. No wonder Hong Kong expanded vertically before its horizontal expansion.

The escalator system was conceived to alleviate car traffic by helping commuters travel efficiently to work while providing protection from rain. The escalators, since its completion in 1994, have proven to be very popular, carrying over 45,000 people a day. It’s functionally aesthetic creating a unique cross sectional city view. With the connection to a series of shopping malls, ferry terminal & new office buildings, the convenience of daily commuting to work, shop, restaurants & play has been the greatest benefits to the folks living in the area. It has transformed the neighbourhoods it connects.

During my first visit to Hong Kong back in 1972, I stayed at Hilton Hotel. Now the Hotel is no longer there, and in its place a taller structure (Cheong Kong Centre, reputedly owned by Li Kah Shing and given the desired address as No. 1 Queen’s Road) presents the rapid progress of Hong Kong. When a five-star hotel could economically give way to progress, what more can we say of lesser structures. In a land-hunger Hong Kong the question of permanency is unheard of – I guess sentiment must make way for progress. This sentiment was popularised by Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore at the time of its rebuilding and along its road of progress.

Despite the economic downturn, Hong Kong’s skyline always present a vibrant air with bamboo scaffolding, towering derricks and cranks, highways, freeways, tunnels, bridges and the ever land reclamation projects. Will anything ever slows down Hong Kong? Perhaps not! It is truly a City that never sleeps. Life just goes on and on.

Paul Chong

A Chinese by Descent

An Australian by Consent

(25 November 2001)