Securing a Safe City

Labor Conditions of the Residential Security Guards in Hong Kong


  • Janice Shen Hong Kong International School
  • Fernando Montero Columbia Univeristy



Hong Kong, Security, Segregation, Private Security, Labor Management


While contemporary ethnographies on “security” focus on abstract notions of safety or the active implementation of security measures, this paper dives into the passive, subconscious structures shaping the labor conditions of residential security guards in Hong Kong. Private security forces have been around since ancient civilization and are so familiar that they have become vastly overlooked in modern society, camouflaging within the social landscape. However, private security forces are everywhere in Hong Kong, crucial to the high levels of safety and convenience of the city’s residents. Security companies display consistent employment practices showing the intrinsic nature of how companies manage their labor in a capitalist economy. This paper depicts how divides between socio-economic groups and security perceptions channel middle-aged or elderly sectors towards residential security guard employment. Additionally, labor management strategies and relationships between residents and security guards further reinforce the structure of dominance, maintaining the status quo while preventing the security guards from unionizing and creating change.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Fernando Montero, Columbia Univeristy


References or Bibliography

Census and Statistics Department. (2017). Thematic Report: Household Income Distribution in Hong Kong. In Census and Statistics Department Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (pp. 9, 51–54, 88–92, 104–117). 2016 Population By-census Office.

Numbeo. (2009-2022). Crime.

Goldstein, D. M. (2010). Toward a Critical Anthropology of Security. Current Anthropology, 51(4), 487–517.

Guo, Y., Chang, S.-S., Sha, F., & Yip, P. S. F. (2018). Poverty concentration in an affluent city: Geographic variation and correlates of neighborhood poverty rates in Hong Kong. PLoS ONE, 13(2).

Hanson, R. (2018). Ethnographies of Security: Pushing Security Studies Beyond the Bounds of International Relations. Qualitative Sociology, 41(2), 135–144.

Karen Zouwen Ho. (2009). Liquidated: an ethnography of Wall Street. Duke University Press.

Konopinski, N. (2009). Ordinary Security: an ethnography of security practices and perspectives in Tel Aviv [PhD Thesis].

Massey, D. S., & Denton, N. A. (1988). The Dimensions of Residential Segregation. Social Forces, 67(2), 281.

Monkkonen, P., & Zhang, X. (2011). Creating Mixed-Income Neighborhoods Unintentionally: Public Housing Residualization and Socioeconomic Segregation in Hong Kong. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Monkkonen, P., & Zhang, X. (2014). Innovative measurement of spatial segregation: Comparative evidence from Hong Kong and San Francisco. Regional Science and Urban Economics, 47(0166-0462), 99–111.

Ngo, J. (2015, May 7). Union leader calls for security guard age limit to be raised. South China Morning Post.

The Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies. (2009). Redirect Notice.

Un, P. (2018, December 21). Numbers say all in crime tale of two cities. The Standard.

Wang, D., & Li, F. (2016). Daily activity space and exposure: A comparative study of Hong Kong’s public and private housing residents’ segregation in daily life. Cities, 59(0264-2751), 148–155.



How to Cite

Shen, J., & Montero, F. (2022). Securing a Safe City : Labor Conditions of the Residential Security Guards in Hong Kong. Journal of Student Research, 11(2).



HS Research Articles