Old age allowance

Elderly need universal pension scheme, report suggests

Most over-60s earn less than Hong Kong's median income, poll finds; figures suggest appropriate welfare for city's elderly is needed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2012, 5:05am

One in seven Hongkongers aged 60 and above still has to work to support themselves, according to a university study funded by the Central Policy Unit and the Research Grants Council.

While the figure may not seem very high compared with other economies, a social science expert said the situation in Hong Kong was grave, as many old people found it difficult to get a job. ''The truth is that many older people need to work to live, but they cannot find jobs because they are not well educated,'' University of Science and Technology's associate science professor Dixon Sing Ming said.

The fact there were so many older people who had to keep working pointed to the need for the government to introduce a universal pension scheme, he said.

The University of Science and Technology's Centre for Applied Social and Economic Research has polled 7,153 people over the age of 15 on different social topics since 2009. The first part of this five-year study, called the Hong Kong Panel Study of Social Dynamics, was completed at the end of last year.

Of the 1,909 people aged 60 or above polled, 15.46 per cent said they had a job. Almost half of them worked between 30 and 48 hours a week while 41.42 per cent worked more than 48 hours a week. One third of the poll sample (33.22 per cent) who worked did non-skilled jobs, such as cleaning.

The median income for the elderly, according to the study figures, is only HK$7,500 a month, compared with HK$12,000 for an average Hongkonger regardless of age.

About 57 per cent of older people were assisted by their children, 28.52 per cent lived on the old age allowance (now HK$1,090 a month), and 12.63 per cent depended on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance.

''The government and society need to offer appropriate welfare to the elderly ... those living on their own or living as couples need more concern and support,'' the report says.

Backing up the study's findings, figures from the Census and Statistics Department from May to July show that 7.2 per cent of people aged 65 or above in Hong Kong are in the labour force. In comparison, the 2011 figure for Britain is 8.7 per cent, while in Singapore it is 20.4 per cent.

Ng Wai-tung, a committee organiser with equal rights group the Society for Community Organisation, said many older people had no choice but to work because they could not support themselves with their savings.

The fact that Hongkongers could only access the money saved in their Mandatory Provident Fund account when they were 65 meant many had to keep working after they turned 60.

Social welfare sector lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che said the survey's results were saddening.