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  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 12:17pm
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SOCIAL SERVICE

One in three old people in Hong Kong are living below the poverty line

One in three old people are living below the poverty line and the number is expected to grow unless a long-term retirement plan is established

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 January, 2013, 9:38am

Large-scale poverty is now endemic in Hong Kong as the gap between rich and poor widens, with old people the hardest hit, according to one of the city's oldest and most respected NGOs.

The Hong Kong Council of Social Service, which has been tracking poverty in the city for 13 years, says the problem will get even more acute unless it is tackled with long-term plans. The council's latest six-monthly report shows that one in three elderly people are living below the poverty line. It is the first time the number of poor elderly has edged above the 300,000 mark, to 305,000.

"The numbers will only grow with our rapidly ageing population," said Chua Hoi-wai, the council's business director. "Poverty has become a continuing trend."

The wealth gap is also at record high. The highest income group in the city earns 3.6 times more than the low income group.

Drawing the poverty line at half of median household income, the council calculates that the number of people living in poverty rose from 1.15 million in 2011 to 1.187 million in 2012 - nearly 20 per cent of the population.

"The effect of the minimum wage is wearing off," said Christine Fang Meng-sang, the council's chief executive.

The minimum wage of HK$28 an hour, which is subject to review every two years, had not kept up with inflation, she said.

Fang urged the government to review and adjust the minimum wage . The first review has recommended it be raised to HK$30 an hour.

Poverty among young people and the middle-aged increased, with around 200,000 households classified as working poor. Poverty among children persisted at 22.4 per cent - or 181,000.

Poverty among old people is more severe in Hong Kong than in other developed economies, said Fang, because the city lacks a good retirement protection scheme or pension plan.

"Even though there is the Old Age Living Allowance coming in April, the government needs to carefully monitor how effective it is and whether adjustments need to be made.

"Ultimately, there needs to be more long-term goals and plans to establish a retirement plan for all," said Fang. The HK$2,200-a-month allowance is means-tested and payable to those over 65.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said yesterday that work on setting a poverty line would start this week and be completed this year.

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tomboyterry
Well, yes and no...a lot of old people do have money that they will save and will not make known to their kids even because of stories about children cheating or taking money from parents and never paying back. So in order to 'prevent' this from happening...they hide their money or jewelry and pretend to be poor...playing the role totally (I have seen many, some are even friends) even getting extra from the Gov't including housing. Others live in appalling situations, because they have No Bank accounts, are told they CANNOT get help such as a place to live although they are eligible... No Bank Account, no payment can be made by Social Welfare, no funds means cannot pay rent to Housing Society...so no housing can be allocated. Stupid system that they say they are now going to change. Gov't Depts tend to do things the convenient way....their way no matter how bureaucratic. So hence we have some old people with nowhere to live and no work because of their age! They may still be healthy and have knowledge of their own but if something happens late in their lives and they have nothing to fall back on...there it is! Living in poverty.
TC
lugnet
A government that treats its elderly the way the Hong Kong government does would not survive a democratic election. Only in a dictatorship is this possible!
tomboyterry
But then on the other hand when the dole gets out of hand, only those willing to hand out lots of cash for welfare will get voted in. Is that totally wise? Look at US & Canada. They have a better system...but I have seen abuses too many times.
Byebye
Hong Kong has beome a very sad place for the elderly. Not only the government, the privileged and the elite too, please do something. Hong Kong, time to focus on the crucial issues.
dallasr
Of course there are genuinely needy people in HK. But by defining "poverty" as half the median income means firstly there is no real concept of going short of anything, and secondly there will always be plenty of people so defined, no matter how rich they are. This is just keeping the bleeding hearts in business.
Stephan
Hong Kong, Asia's World City? You must be kidding, it is SHAME!!!
hollieivany
Hint - the term 'elderly' sounds a lot more respectful than 'old people'. And I agree, there needs to be something in the system that protects the elderly from having to slave away for a measly $28 bucks an hour. Shameful.

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