McRefugees on the rise in Hong Kong

71.1% of Hong Kongers who slept overnight in McDonalds are not technically homeless

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McDonald's restaurant in Hong Kong.

McDonald's restaurant in Hong Kong. (By Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A recent survey has found that the number of people who stay overnight in McDonalds restaurants, or McRefugees, has increased five-fold over the past five years in Hong Kong.

Most McRefugees are employed in full-time work, but are unable to afford adequate housing, according to a recent survey by community group JSC Tai Ping Shan (太平山青年商會).

JSC Tai Ping Shan found that the number of McRefugees has grown from 57 in 2013, to 334 in 2018, reported Ming Pao of Hong Kong.

The survey found that the majority of respondents were engaged in some kind of employment and that 71.1 percent are not technically homeless.

The survey also revealed 20 percent could not afford to use air conditioning in the summer heat, as well as anecdotal evidence of family strife leading to people staying overnight in McDonald's.

According to the Society for Community Organisation, Hong Kong homelessness has increased by 30 percent in the last five years, with around 1,800 sleeping rough as the cost of accommodation steadily increases.

Wu Wei-tung (吳衛東), head of Society for Community Organisation told the Liberty Times that the rent-to-income ratio in Hong Kong is 35.8, and often is greater than 50 for low income earners. Taiwan in comparison, has an average rent-to-income ratio of 23.9 percent, with Taipei being significantly higher at 58 percent, reported CNA.

Hong Kong is the greatest provider of public housing in Asia, with the government supplying subsidized housing to 30 percent of Hong Kongers. Taiwan's public housing rate is less than one percent in comparison, but Taiwan's housing problem is arguably less severe.

Professor Wong Hung (黃洪) of the Chinese University of Hong Kong says economic conditions are forcing more Hong Kongers onto the streets than drug or other addictions, and that growing income inequality and high housing prices are core factors.