Hong Kong plans to set its first official poverty line in 2013. The threshold will be decided by a panel of experts at the Commission on Poverty but is expected to be set at half of the median household income.
Hong Kong poverty line expected to be set within three months
An official poverty line is expected to be drawn within three months, said a leading professional, as a board of government-appointed experts prepared to hold a meeting on the issue on Monday.
Speaking on a RTHK programme ahead of the meeting, Nelson Chow Wing-sun of the University of Hong Kong’s social work and social administration, said it “could be a start” for the poverty threshold to be set at half of the median household income, if a consensus is reached.
At a later stage, the government could study other taxing structures or welfare transition methods to adjust the net and pinpoint those who are in need, he said.
“The most important part is the measures to be done in the next step,” Chow said. “Setting a line is only a way to find out those who are in need… After that we also need to investigate how much people are in need of assistant in different social welfare aspects such as education and medical service.”
“I do not think there will be any difficulty to set the line within this year,” he said, adding that he hoped and thought it was possible it could be defined within three months.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said on Sunday that a poverty line will be set up in October to help quantify the poverty-stricken population for a focused analysis.
Chow also suggested that the government should set up a comprehensive pension system for those who are above 65 years old – under which the government and employer each bear half of the financial burden.
“If the elderly needs HK$4,000 a month for living after retirement, the government could half subsidise them, and the other half could be supplied by the employer,” Chow said.
A recent six-monthly report by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service 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.