Old age allowance
Commonly known as "fruit money", the old age allowance is a monthly cash subsidy the Hong Kong government pays to senior citizens aged 65-69 with low incomes, and all elderly citizens aged 70 and over. The Leung Chun-ying administration in 2012 proposed to introduce a new means-tested subsidy called the Old Age Living Allowance, which provides HK$2,200 per month for the needy only.
Old-age allowance proposal well short of CY Leung's pledge
During his chief executive election campaign, Leung Chun-ying pledged to introduce an improved old age allowance.
The proposed Old Age Living Allowance was outlined by the administration early last month, but since summer the voices calling for a universal pension scheme have grown louder. The government's proposal calls for a means test to determine which elderly citizens are eligible for the monthly sum of HK$2,200.
While legislators from different parties have generally backed the scheme, they have been divided over the means test, with most pan-democrats opposed to it. Those who support this test argue that giving this sum to all elderly citizens would, in the long run, impose an unacceptable financial burden on society.
Officials argue that this is meant to be an allowance for old folk who are in need.
I have felt very disappointed by the proposal, because I share the view of those people who say Hong Kong needs a universal pension scheme.
It is the government's duty to allocate resources in the correct way for needy citizens. Given that we know we face an ageing population, the administration should be already allocating more resources to deal with this problem. This means that in the long run it should aim for a universal scheme and in the short term raise the maximum assets limit, to provide for as many elderly as possible.
Also, when you look at this extra sum of HK$1,110 (the current allowance of HK$1,090 plus HK$1,110) I calculate it could buy you:
- Ten bags of adult nappies;
- Private consultation with a doctor (not a specialist), and medicine;
- One or two physiotherapy sessions; and
- A small percentage of the monthly payment for a care home.
Is this genuine assistance for the needy or just a token of thanks?
According to the Steering Committee on Population Policy Progress Report 2012, at end-2011, 30 per cent (74,000) and 62 per cent (444,000) of persons aged 65-69 and aged 70 or above, respectively, were receiving the Old Age Allowance. According to official information, about 400,000 elderly people will get the living allowance. Therefore the means test on people aged 70 or above would eliminate about 100,000 "ineligible" elderly.
Does the government want to help the needy or just make good on the chief executive's election pledge? What is now proposed seems far removed from what he promised.
Ina Leung, Tai Po