SCMP Saturday, May 5, 2001

Hi-tech lifestyle costs more: survey


Computers and mobile phones may have dropped in price, but people are spending more on them, according to new statistics.
On average, each household spent $358 a month on mobile phone services last year, compared to just $31 five years ago.
And the latest Household Expenditure Survey figures reveal that, on average, households spent $190 a month on home computers, compared to $66 during the last survey for 1994-95.
"Computers, mobile phones and related products and services were relatively expensive a few years ago," Deputy Commissioner for Census and Statistics Fung Hing-wang said. "However, as prices came down in recent years, they have become very popular."
The basket of goods included in the Consumer Price Index was expanded last year for the first time to include Internet services, on which households spent an average of $39.
Other new items include massage chairs, notebook computers, digital cameras, home insurance and sushi.
Expenditure had fallen to negligible levels on some "obsolete" items, such as kerosene stoves and typewriters.
Changes in the statistical methods meant the Consumer Price Index could not be directly compared to previous years. But overall, the downward trend that started in mid-1998 appears to have continued.
More than 6,000 households kept diaries recording what they spent as part of the survey, which was conducted between October 1999 and September last year by the Census and Statistics Department.
The department classified households into low expenditure (the 50 per cent of households spending $4,500 to $18,499 a month), medium expenditure (30 per cent spending $18,500 to $32,499 a month) and high expenditure (10 per cent spending $32,500-$65,999 a month).
Low and medium-category households spent a greater proportion - four per cent and two per cent more respectively - of their income on housing than five years ago. Mr Fung attributed this to the movement of people from public rental flats to Home Ownership Scheme flats. However, for the more wealthy households, the proportion of their income spent on housing fell three per cent because of lower rental prices.
Gas, electricity and water also occupied a larger proportion of average income than five years ago. Similarly, rises in bus fares led to increased expenditure on transport.
But Hong Kong residents spent a smaller proportion of their income on meals bought away from home compared to five years ago.