Third of children moving to Hong Kong from mainland face hardship, survey shows

Families moving to city are living below poverty line, survey shows, prompting call for cash aid

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 3:50am

Poverty afflicts more than a third of the children in mainland families that move to Hong Kong, a study released yesterday shows.

In families with one mainland parent, 37.2 per cent of children live below the poverty line, said Professor Chou Kee-lee, of the Department of Asian and Policy Study at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

When both parents are from the mainland, 42 per cent of their children live in poverty.

"The government needs to provide more support for these children," Chou said as he released his study, based on the government's 2011 census report.

Since Hong Kong does not have an official poverty line yet, Chou set it at HK$3,500 for one person and HK$13,250 for a household of four - using a benchmark of half the city's average household income. This yardstick has been used by non-governmental organisations to measure the city's poverty.

Chou found 26.2 per cent of all children in Hong Kong live in poverty, or about 275,000 youngsters. In single-parent families, that rises to 47.7 per cent. But when the single parent is from the mainland, it increases to 58 per cent. Chou called on the government to ease the rules of eligibility for coverage under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme.

Welfare is currently available only to people with seven years' residency in Hong Kong. Chou said all newcomers from the mainland should be eligible if they pass the means test.

"We shouldn't give immigrants the impression that they are not welcome," he added.

He also called on the government to offer a HK$1,000-a-month subsidy to children living in poverty, whether they are local people or mainlanders. Further, the government should provide 15 years of free education.

The city's new administration has said the government will determine an official poverty line for Hong Kong next year.