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  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 11:05am

Poverty line

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.

NewsHong Kong

Half a million survive on less than HK$120 a day

That's for a roof over their heads, food, clothing and everything else it takes to live. Most are elderly and more than 10 per cent are children

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 8:09am


  • Yes: 85%
  • No: 15%
2 Aug 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 440

An estimated 545,000 people in Hong Kong are the poorest of the poor, and our census and social welfare policies have failed them, a new study shows.

About 40 per cent are aged 65 or above, 12 per cent are children under the age of 18, and 10 per cent of them still live in severe poverty despite being employed, according to the survey released yesterday by the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

The survey defines severe poverty as earning less than HK$3,585 per month, the median household income of those living in poverty.

Poverty is defined as earning less than HK$6,062 per month, half of the median income of all households in the city. The figures include all allowances from social welfare schemes and investments and make adjustments for the number of people per household.

Based on a 5 per cent sample - the largest retrievable from the 2011 census - the study concludes more than 1.3 million people live in poverty, with more than 40 per cent in severe poverty, surviving on less than HK$120 a day.

Chou Kee-lee, associate head of HKIEd's Asian and Policy Studies department, said households in severe poverty go unrecognised and uncared for.

He said some subsidies only go to those in jobs and there is still no comprehensive government pension for severely poor elderly.

"[The government] doesn't even know that severe poverty can be divided from poverty," said Chou.

He added that those living in severe poverty differed from other poor people.

For example, they were more likely to be unemployed or be elderly-only households. Many lived alone.

Chou said the severely poor were the most vulnerable in society - they tend to be immigrants without a support network; disabled; unemployed; poorly educated; or without any savings.

Calling for a universal pension scheme to better protect the elderly in poverty, he said: "The risk of severe poverty is greater for older people.

"As most elderly people living in severe poverty are either alone or with an elderly spouse, the situation warrants public attention," he said.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung indicated in May that a public consultation on a universal pension might be held next year.

Chou also believes that the government should set up two poverty lines to define those in poverty and those in severe poverty, so it can come up with policies tending to their different needs.

But Law Chi-kwong, member of the Commission on Poverty, said one poverty line was enough, and people could divide those living under the poverty line into different groups themselves. "The most important thing is policy," said Law. "A poverty line is just a reference for better analyses."

The government announced last month that Hong Kong's first poverty line will be officially instituted next month.



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This article is now closed to comments

It is very unfortunate that many children are suffering from poverty. Many were probably borne into poverty, and sometimes I wonder what was going through the minds of their parents. Did they not know that they would subject an innocent life to a torturous experience? If two people cannot even provide a decent quality of living for themselves, then they probably should *not* be procreating. This sort of behavior is reprehensible and irresponsible to the extreme.
Having said that, that does not mean we should not help the afflicted children.
John Adams
This situation is a tragedy. We are such an affluent society yet we cannot care for our old people, on whose back-breaking work our affluence was made ( and tycoons got rich)
There surely MUST be a better way to care for our elderly who really have no other means of subsistence
PS: The MPF is a total non-starter - at least for those who are already elderly. .
One of the primary causes of poverty in HK is the disgusting, deplorable wage discrimination and exploitation of people in 3Ds (dirty, dangerous, and demeaning) jobs. In contrast, these jobs pay comparably well in North America and Europe, largely due to worker centric labor laws and strong worker unions. It is a reflection of the quality of a society and culture how those most susceptible to exploitation are treated. What is it about HK (and Asia in general) that causes our society and culture to tolerate the exploitation of 3Ds workers? Their contribution to society is critical, as without them society could not function.
In order to lift people out of poverty, reasonable wages must be paid to anyone who works the global standard of 40 to 48 hours per week. By reasonable, I mean that the wages earned should be sufficient to fully provide for themselves, including the cost of livable shelter (naturally this would excluded subdivided flats and cage houses). This can be accomplished by raising the minimum wage in gradual increments. Another angle to address worker exploitation is to legislate statutory collective bargaining rights, prevent employers from hiring replacement workers in case of strike, and implement standard working hours of 40 hours per week with overtime pay at 1.5 times standard rate. For a better HK, we must lobby the government to enact these changes in an expedient manner.
$6,000 per month is definitely extremely low if you have to pay for rent on top of that. I can only imagine that those on $3600 must either be in public housing or are living on the streets. Is that taken into account in any way? And I don't mean by assessing a market rate for their public housing. It should be based on how much money is left after rent is paid.


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