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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 12:00am

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
WELFARE

1.3 million Hongkongers live in poverty, government says, but offers no solution

C.Y. 'not afraid to take tough decisions' after government recognises poverty levels for the first time, but no new initiatives announced

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 September, 2013, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 September, 2013, 8:18am
 

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  • Yes: 71%
  • No: 29%
29 Sep 2013
  • Yes
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Total number of votes recorded: 530

Hong Kong - one of the wealthiest places in the world - has acknowledged for the first time that it has a sizeable poverty problem by declaring that 1.31 million of its citizens are officially poor.

The number of people who fall below the new government-set poverty line falls to 1.01 million after welfare payments such as Comprehensive Social Security Assistance are factored in.

Speaking at a special summit on poverty yesterday, chief executive Leung Chun-ying said he would "not be afraid to take tough decisions'' to address the issue, as comprehensive statistics detailing the extent and nature of poverty in 21st century Hong Kong revealed for the first time that:

  • 19.6 per cent of the city's population can now be classified as poor, or 15.2 per cent if regular cash welfare payments are included;
  • More than half of those who fall under the poverty line have one or more full-time worker in their households;
  • One in three elderly people - approximately 296,600 - are poor;
  • One in five children - 208,800 youngsters - are poor; and
  • 235,600 people on CSSA welfare still fall below the poverty line.

A one-person household with less than HK$3,600 per month will be considered poor, under 2012 statistics. For two-person households, the amount is HK$7,700 and HK$14,300 for four-person households.

In line with the household income measurement used by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, assets and debts are not counted.

Compared to places such as Britain, the US, France and Korea, who use the same formula, before welfare payments are taken into account, the city ranks favourably, with 19.6 per cent of its population falling below the poverty line. Only in Korea is it lower, at 17.3 per cent.

However, Hong Kong does not rank so well after welfare payments come into the equation, with only the US (17.4 per cent) topping the 15.2 per cent of the city's population who remain under the poverty line.

Despite mapping out the extent of the problem, no new initiatives or policies to tackle it were announced yesterday, sparking criticism.

"These numbers are just the beginning," said Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who also chairs the reinstated Commission on Poverty.

"The poverty line is a product of relatively wide consensus among [commission] members."

Lam said future efforts will target the most needy groups - the working poor and families with children, for whom a low income supplement will be considered.

Leung said he was ready to take tough decisions. "I'm sure our policies in the future will raise even more debate and controversy," he added.

However, critics decried the government's lack of commitment to tackle the problem.

"There was no target," said Blind Union president Chong Chan-yau. "[Leung] said poverty cannot be completely eliminated, and he named this as a principle in poverty alleviation. If this is the attitude, it's like waving a white flag before the war has even started." Poverty figures on the disabled community were also excluded, Chong said.

Shalini Mahtani, of ethnic minority advocacy non-profit group Unison, was disappointed there were no figures on poverty among ethnic minorities.

 


What now?

"I don't really have an opinion [on the poverty line]. It doesn't change the way we have to work," says Chen Shao-hong, the sole breadwinner for her family of four, who earns less than HK$13,000 a month.

The poverty threshold for a four-person household is HK$14,300, 2012 data indicates.

"We've always known that [we are] poor," she said. "We were poor before this anyway."

Chen has to work overtime and extra days at a Tseung Kwan O construction site to earn up to HK$13,000, as her husband cannot work full-time due to a skin problem. They have two sons who are still at school.

Chen said moving into public housing this month has helped. Before, they lived in a rooftop hut that cost HK$3,000, not including utilities. They now pay HK$2,500 for a public housing flat.

"So, does this mean the government will be handing out more money to us?" Chen asked after the city's official poverty line was announced yesterday. "I'm interested in what they will give us now."

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This article is now closed to comments

HK-Explorer
The problem now is the poor will start demanding handouts. Hopefully the government does not start handing out free money as that does not help poor people.
There are jobs out there for poor but they just lack the skills. The government should start retraining centres to trains hose categorised as poor in construction (many jobs here with all the infrastructure projects), catering, tourism, childcare, elderly care (great future here).
Worst case would be workfare (beach cleaning, country park cleaning, MTR embasidors).
The government could even subsidise internships etc..
josephyang
Why is Paul Chan's wife the evil one? If it weren't for the subdivided flat landlords, there would not be anywhere for these people to live at all. The evil one was Donald Tsang and John Tsang and Henry Tang for fostering the high land price policy that led to the demand for the subdivided flats in the first place.
Ka
I believe HK government set the new poverty line that is a preliminary step to address the poverty issue. But how to propose other constructive measures would be the core difficulty. I agree that poverty in HK is unable to be terminated because the calculation of poverty is based on income in median. In respect of teenagers, the main difficulties would be the career prospects and promotion opportunities rather than lack of subsidy. H.K. government only rely on few industries, including finance, tourism and service, to develop economy. Today, even if people graduate from Universities, many of them still serve in low-salary position.
Byebye
Quote "One in five children - 208,800 youngsters - are poor...." ~ this is unacceptable; don't just talk talk talk, more talk....Action or work on how to reduce poverty in such an affluent city like Hong Kong is crucial. How about those exceptionally rich Hong Kong elites or developers that have made money out of Hong Kong where monopolies or cartels dwell without hindrance? Do not believe in handout but do act on helping the poor to have basic quality of life first. How about working on a "high" wealth tax system (make sure the sandwich class or middle-class are not affected)? Tax on on properties beyond certain value? Consider identify business that are monopoly or cartel in nature, and start a tax on these too. How about investment income over certain values? vehicles over certain values /cc plus second car (luxury) tax? size of houses etc.... etc.... Lets work on our brain to at least help reduce poverty for some sectors!
carmeledwin
The problem is that the Pan-democratic parties are only out to destroy this government and Hong Kong, for everything that the government does, they do not support. In fact, by personal experience and observation, this government is doing a lot. In fact, let me tell you that past CEOs never bother to reply to emails, nor take action, however, I had had Mr. C.Y. Leung replied to two emails of mine, and he has taken action on both issues. This government is doing their best, although it will take time for them to achieve, and with the disruptive actions of the Pan-democratic parties, it will make things progress slower or even bogged down.
Dao-Phooy
They are all just greedy. The Chan's are hypocrites. I have no problem with their wealth - but some of it came through exploitation of the poor. Can't see how they can deny it. As for Donald Tsang - what a disgusting man. I wonder if he has any conscience as his ego was so huge. Would meeting Pope Benedict confirm in his mind his self inflated opinion that he has a good soul? Hong Kong suffered so much under his administration.
Camel
Asking for solutions? The first would be, bring down those ridiculous high property prizes.
carson
A successful government not only do it great job but also need supporting by the legislative council and the members of public. We saw that Leung's government have launched lots of policy for the goodness of Hong Kong peoples, this is a new government, we should be fair and give her more time when we criticise .
It is obnoxious and repulsive in the comment of the Blind Union president Chong Chan-yau. It is common sense we know that how can completely eliminate poverty ! Nowadays most of the legislative counciallors like Mr Chong are only know to criticise, what the easy job they do! Please do more useful things for the public.
swami.vas
Poverty in affluent Hong Kong is a complex issue requiring careful consideration and action within the capability of the Government to meet varying needs of people with different background and at different levels! It may be consoling to note that Hong Kong is almost on par with other developed countries like the US, Great Britain, France and South Korea but it should not prevent the government and NGOs to do whatever is possible to alleviate the sufferings of those in Hong Kong considered living below poverty line which in fact is unfixed and indefinable!
Shadow
Because now our govt's main worry is those 50000+ Every year new immigrants from other side.

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