Hong Kong, UAE, Singapore: Where parents spend the most on education

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A survey of parents’ spending on their kids’ education found people in Hong Kong shell out more than $130,000 per child, spending about eight times as much through college as French parents. Hong Kong was followed by the United Arab Emirates, where parents spend nearly $100,000 for their children’s education, and Singapore, with more than $70,000 of spending.

In contrast, French parents paid less than $17,000—around an eighth of Hong Kong spending.

The findings come from a report published by HSBC Bank on Thursday (June 29), and are based on surveys of 8,481 parents across 15 countries and regions in February. The bank asked parents who had at least one child aged 23 or younger currently in school about their spending habits across different levels of schooling. Spending on fees, books, school transport and accommodation was included.

The study used 2016 exchange rates to convert spending into US dollars.

Taking into account average earnings across these regions, though, parents in Hong Kong may not be the most stretched. The education spending figure for Hong Kong, for example, is just over three times per capita GDP, which was at about $42,000 in Hong Kong in 2015. In Egypt though, where per capita GDP is about $3600, that ratio is at 4.7, while for India it’s a whopping 11.8 times per capita GDP. Even using the ratio method, France, is still most likely the smallest spender—given its more than $36,000 per capita GDP.

Some of the differences in spending may be driven by how optimistic parents feel about the future. Many parents in Asia have high hopes that excelling in academics will be a sure path to success.  Some 87% of parents in India and 84% of parents in China said their children have a bright future. But these hopes can also put a lot of pressure on children. In Hong Kong, where school exams are intense and many children are forced to take additional tutoring outside school hours, more than 70 student suicides have taken place in the past three years.

French parents were a lot less optimistic than those in Asia. Only 42% of French parents said that the saw a bright future for their children and even less—36%—expected their children to get a great job.

This is the fourth time the bank has surveyed parents on their spending habits. Additional questions HSBC asked in an earlier survey revealed other big differences in parents’ attitudes to their kids’ futures across the world. In France, 86% of parents said their ultimate goal for their children was for them to be happy in life, while only 29% said their ultimate goal was for them to be successful in their careers. In Hong Kong, more parents wanted their children to lead a healthy life or earn enough to be comfortable than have a successful career.