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  • Jul 31, 2014
  • Updated: 8:53am
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SOCIETY

Hong Kong's elderly 'among poorest in developed world'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 8:36am

Hong Kong's elderly are not only the poorest people in the city, they are among the poorest in the developed world.

Close to a third of people aged 65 and over are classified as poor, according to calculations released by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service yesterday.

Among 30 developed economic regions listed in a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report, this is second only to South Korea, where the figure is about 45 per cent.

The figure prompted a fresh call by the council for action on a universal pension scheme.

"We'd like to again urge the government to stop studiously investigating whether a universal pension is needed and take action now," director Christine Fang Meng-sang said.

According to the figures, based on 2012 census statistics, the overall poverty rate - defined as people having equal to or less than half of the median monthly household income - was still the same as 2011, at 17.1 per cent. But the number of people in poverty grew from 1.51 million to 1.61 million . The number of elderly people in poverty grew by 10,000 to 298,000, or 32.6 per cent of the age group.

The poverty rate among people over 65 is 28 per cent in Mexico, 22.4 per cent in the United States, 10.3 per cent in Britain and 1.5 per cent in New Zealand, according to the OECD report.

We'd like to again urge the government to stop studiously investigating whether a universal pension is needed and take action now

"Hong Kong's elderly poverty is considered very serious internationally," council business director Chua Hoi-wai said, adding that retirement protection in the city was underdeveloped and non-comprehensive.

The Mandatory Provident Fund - where bosses and staff contribute to a retirement fund capped at a combined HK$2,500 a month - was grossly inadequate for retirement, Chua said, adding that it did not cover part-time and casual workers or homemakers. He said the most obvious victims were women, as many did not hold full-time jobs and lived longer than men.

The number of working poor families increased from 185,000 to 191,000 last year - even though 80 per cent of these households had at least one member with a full-time job. One in every five children was poor.

The council said more than half of working poor families were marginal, with household incomes 10 per cent or less below the poverty line.

"A subsidy of only 10 per cent of those families' median household income will lift half of them out of poverty," Fang said.

The council has concluded that if the government spent HK$4.8 billion on this subsidy it would benefit 740,000 people and lift 190,000 out of poverty - including 60,000 children. The poverty rate would fall from 17.1 per cent to 14.3 per cent, it said.

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johnyuan
Point missed mercedes2233. US poor lives so much better because of society's higher sense for equality. High % of poor is measured against high standard. Hong Kong lacks such sense. Hong Kong people more like to see to punish the poor because strangely they are poor. Admit it and don't take it as another lecture that you object.
mercedes2233
Are you speaking from knowledge or just guesswork? The previous writer gave us only anecdotal evidence which did not match with published papers on the subject. Since you asked, another report about US poverty says "More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks." That is below HKD15,347 per month for a family of 4! Does that show "US poor lives so much better because of society's high sense of equality"? I object to statements only when they are factually untrue, which yours certainly is, when the Internet is available for research which you haven't done. "Admit it" yourself, please.
johnyuan
I admit that I didn't get on the website searching for 'facts'. I depended on my general sense especially not seeing white / grey haired folks hauling on the streets for a living in US cities. Secondly the living standard is higher in the US yet basic living expanse is lower than Hong Kong making poverty even less so than expansive Hong Kong. If you go by statistics only, you would run against what you see and what common sense would actually tell you. Hong Kong government for years had play with statistics in order to win the dubious honor of being The Freest Economy handed out by The Heritage Foundation. Statistic without examination and questioning can lie. So beware. Again no lecture is intended with all my guesswork.
Shadow
Our this leaders will make SAR most corrupt and worse place on globe very soon
Every official and law makers are filling their pockets with corruption money.
SAR citizens are getting hopeless day by day
donniemcm
Again time consuming and money wasting into getting pushing open door statistics.
Last time they spent this time and money was to access that there weren't enough flats for HK people. Or that there were "a lot" of subdivided flats.
By just seeing that some people need to queue around 5 to 10 years to get a gov housing and that subdivided flats exists by itself is already enough to take action and remedy.
sipsip1238
It's just so painful to see statistics like these and even worst when you witness it on the streets. Having come back to Hong Kong from overseas, one of the things that I was shocked by was seeing elderly people on the streets pushing their overweight (for even a normal Hong Kong man) cart picking through rubbish bins just to get cardboard and sometimes food.
What makes them so much more respectable is that they would never be asking for money (even when you offer) or even getting the "fruit money" because they have the true belief that people survive with their two hands and not using welfare means that they are not burdening the future generation.
The only thing that they would be willing to accept is when you offer a helping hand with their carts or pick up a few things for them, which honestly, annoys me that so many people just walk past them like they don't exist. Call it karma gathering, but I do it in the hope that my grandma never have to go through this.
I have pointed this out before but we have seen too many cases of public servants (ministers, but I think corruption goes down the line) being corrupt or abusing their status while at the same time being paid too well; do you think they understand the plight of the poor when they don't even see them. (Going out every now and then with bodyguards is just laughable).
But I think such awareness needs to start young, because it is saddening to see elderly being ignored, the same elderly that built this city.
SpeakFreely
If ur returnee u you should understand the system here is designed for the elite. Most of the working poor has no pension plan, despite low tax, but high rent, high cost of living, they won't have enough saving to get old. The system is designed to put all profits to biz and government via property related biz. Either you are making great money or you are a civil servant with pension, you will be poor when getting old. Even you are not old, most of the cost of your restaurant eat out, your shopping etc are eaten up by rent. That's why in US things are so cheap to buy and eat. But HK slavry system is not very respecting the working class people normally people don't tip much when eating out, vs here we tip 20% in USA. So the working class has more money.
impala
The glaring omission in the article is what the poverty line is that these 298,000 elderly and the 1.3m other people are living below. The poverty line in HK is set at a personal disposable income HKD 3,600 per month.

So yes, we have money for HKD 6,000 everybody-dance-now hand-outs, a HKD 22bn cultural district and HKD 67bn for an embarrassingly short stretch of high speed railway so we can get to Guangzhou a little faster. We also have money to dole out endless rate and electricity subsidies, including to lots of people who don't need those at all and despite this going against policy goals like cooling down the property market and combatting pollution.

But no, we don't have money to set up a universal pension scheme that would benefit these 298,000 elderly who are living in conditions even Mexico would be ashamed of. Because that would go into the box 'recurrent expenditure,' and Chief Financial Nitwit John Tsang deems that dangerous and really, despite a HKD 300k monthly salary, he is part of the middle class, so no worries y'all.

Instead, we give them some 'fruit money' (HKD 2,200) that still barely gets them up to subsistence levels, and which we also make hard and awkward to get to, as you need to prove both your income and assets are low enough. With this, we hope they won't drop dead in the street, and if we stick our heads in the sand deep enough, perhaps the problem will somehow go away.

It is a disgrace.

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