Haves and have-nots

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am


The gap between rich and poor in Hong Kong now stands at its widest in at least three decades.

The Census and Statistics Department says the city's Gini coefficient has reached 0.537 based on income data from 2011.

The higher the score on this internationally recognised scale from 0 to 1, the greater the income inequality. In Hong Kong, it was 0.533 five years ago and 0.451 in 1981. That is among the highest in the developed world. The score is 0.482 in Singapore and 0.469 in the United States.

Poverty advocates say it shows that neither recent economic growth nor government relief measures have bridged the gap.

Officials warn that income disparity is likely to worsen in coming years. As Hong Kong's population ages, more people will retire from the workforce.

The number of families where nobody is working has increased by 48 per cent from 280,000 to 420,000.

The median monthly income for the city's poorest 10 per cent dropped from HK$2,250 to HK$2,070 in the past five years.

The top 10 per cent of earners made HK$95,000, as opposed to HK$76,250 five years ago.

Oxfam's advocacy officer Wong Shek-hung said a Gini index higher than 0.4 indicated severe inequality.

Experts said the figures could be even worse as the data included welfare income for households eligible for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance.