Personal merits and social capital:
The experiences of getting ahead among South Asians minorities in Hong Kong


This paper aims to identify the methods through which South Asian minorities are able to overcome the structural barriers and discriminatory experiences they face in the Hong Kong labour market. Qualitative in-depth interviews of nine South Asian minorities who were born or grew up in Hong Kong were conducted. They were competitive in academic results, compared to local Hong Kong Chinese, or were engaged in middle class jobs. In addition to their personal strengths, the author found that all interviewees benefitted from social, and particularly inter- ethnic, ties at different stages of their lives (e.g., when they began their first jobs or received important information). South Asian minorities are often portrayed as passive and disadvantaged, but this article explores how they can actively become achievers in Hong Kong. The role of agency is also re-asserted in discussions concerning ethnic minorities.