In Hong Kong, Your Clothes Matter

I have not had much time to devote to blogging this week, but I would like to forward a report I suspect most readers will find as fascinating as I have: the Asian Productivity Organization‘s APO Productivity Databook 2015. I have been slowly leafing through it over the last month; on every page there is a graphic worth pondering. To give you just one example, here is the graphic presented on page 46 of the report:

The authors use this figure to illustrate Engel’s Law: as incomes rise households spend a smaller proportion of their income on foodstuffs. The figure demonstrates this point excellently. More interesting than this broader trend, however, are the quirks in consumption unique to each country. The high cost of American health care is easy to spot here, as is the high proportion of income South Koreans spend on education. What sticks out most to me, however, is Hong Kong. People in Hong Kong devote a whopping 17% of their annual consumption on clothes and shoes, This is not only five times what other developed countries are spending on apparel; it is also more than Hong Kongers spend on housing, health care, or transportation! 

I encourage you to page through the report and find your own favorite figure from it.

EDIT: 15/05/2015 – Trey Menefee was able to track down a similar data set from a different source:

Trey suggests–as did the commentator “Bormington” below–that the APO numbers probably come from sloppy compilation of data that counted tourist purchases along with regular household consumption. I agree that this is the most plausible explanation for the discrepancy. 

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Could Hong Kong's statistics for clothing include spending by tourists on clothing? From what I hear, Hong Kong is a popular place for Mainlanders to buy luxury goods. Technically, such sales should be counted as exports, not household consumption, but I wonder if adjustments have been made (who knows where a handbag or silk tie goes after it has been purchased?).

Hong Konger here…this doesn't seem right. No quantitative basis for that claim, but it just doesn't seem to sync with my anecdotal perception. A little higher than average, maybe – who knows – but >5x the US? And housing even less than the US? It just seems fishy.