Middle class also needs help, says charity

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 April, 2012, 12:00am


A charity that has helped the city's poorest for generations is turning its attention to a group it says is facing unprecedented social and economic hardship - middle-class people.

Caritas says its new programme for those living well above the poverty line will take a different approach compared to its work with the underprivileged, with a focus on planning rather than counselling.

'We have to tell them how to plan for the future,' said Paulina Kwok Chi-ying, the organisation's family crisis support centre supervisor. 'For example, we have to listen to them and see if they wish to go on to further studies or change their job.'

But getting them to talk is not always easy. Middle-class people do not have much time to discuss their problems due to the pressures of work or studying, and people with a good education and a prosperous career do not think of themselves as needing help, Kwok says.

But recently there has been a steady stream of middle-class people attending workshops and talks held by Caritas. More than 1,000 have sought the charity's help in each of the last two years, Kwok says.

Caritas says it uses a loose definition of a middle-class family, but says most earn more than the median monthly household income, which last year stood at HK$20,500, according to official census figures.

Statistician Dr Paul Yip Siu-fai, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, said last year that a Hong Kong household earning HK$55,000 a month or more could be classified as middle-class.

Education, housing and economic development are among the big concerns for the middle classes.

'On the education front, they hope the next government [of chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying] will provide a fair platform for children to develop, rather than having ever-changing education policies,' Kwok said. '[On housing,] they want a more balanced housing policy that, perhaps, will reintroduce more Home Ownership Scheme units.

'For the overall economy to develop sustainably, the middle class, as far as those who have talked to me are concerned, wants more diversification,' Kwok said.