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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.

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Carrie Lam proposes one-stop agency to take stigma out of claiming benefits

Carrie Lam's idea intended to end shame many people feel when applying for CSSA payments

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 8:09pm

The government is studying how people can overcome the stigma they experience by claiming social security allowances, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday.

A day after the government announced an official poverty line for Hong Kong, Lam suggested on the Beautiful Sunday radio programme that a neutral "one-stop" organisation could means-test and distribute allowances to those on low incomes who did not apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance because "they want to be self-reliant" and avoid being labelled or stigmatised.

Lam, who is chairwoman of the Commission on Poverty, writes in an article today in the South China Morning Post that the best way to lift people out of poverty is to create jobs.

The government announced on Saturday that the official poverty line was set at half of the city's median household income, meaning that the 1.31 million people in the city below it were officially poor.

A person living alone and earning less than HK$3,600 a month would fall below the poverty line under 2012 statistics.

Lam said she was aware that many low-income families qualified to receive Comprehensive Social Security Assistance but did not apply for it as they wished to be self-reliant or were afraid of being labelled or discriminated against for taking benefits.

"We will carry out a consultancy study to see if there is a way we can find a more neutral organisation to distribute different government allowances, especially those requiring a means test," she said, without explaining what she meant by "neutral organisation".

Social welfare-sector lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che supported the idea, saying it would minimise stigmatisation and also increase efficiency as applicants for different allowances would only have to visit one place to submit application forms.

Commenting on what "neutral organisation" should distribute these allowances, Cheung said it was difficult for non-governmental organisations to assist as the workload would be huge. He suggested a government body should carry out the work.

Lam also said that the commission was designing the details of measures aimed at helping the working poor, especially those with children.

Lam wrote in her article: "We should continue to grow our economy and create employment opportunities, particularly quality jobs to help the upward mobility of young people."

Separately Wong Hung, a professor of social work and welfare at Chinese University, said poverty alleviation was more about restructuring the economy to provide better and more diverse types of jobs.

While the reasons for poverty could be complex, "making work pay" was an important part of poverty alleviation, Wong said.

Labour Party lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung doubted if Lam's suggestions would eradicate the stigma.

"The stigma is there as long as applicants need to hand in a form," he said.


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Sizing up poverty in Hong Kong
30 Sep 2013 - 12:00am

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providing money subsidies to the underclass can't end up for the good as people would increasingly rely on the Government alleviation measures. the cause of poverty is of comparative effect, so it is impossible to eradicate. but the only thing can help the society and youth have upward mobility is the education, I prefer the Government puts a large part of the alleviation efforts on the education sector to spending money for gain the round of applause .
Looks like Ms. Lam is trying to lead Hong Kong into an era when lining up for a piece of bread is considered heroic or even glorious. If Ms. Lam is so inclined, what she can do is to set up a buddhist monastery or a franchise of churches or even start a jockey club community chest with her own money and stay clear of government funds, i.e. other people's money.
The best way to help the working-poor is to raise the minimum wage so it is a livable wage. It not only provides dignity in work for pay but equally important it will encourage people to work for a living. Notwithstanding the complexity of changing minimum wage to a living wage, but it is the right thing to do for a more equal society.
Simple arithmetic tells that the latest minimum wage is only half of what it should be which was studied some years ago. Government makes up the shortfall to the working-poor who are underpaid by employers. Sure the food chain of low wages can be traced in most cases passing through employers to high rent business. Here, government in fact is handing money to landlords via subsidies to the working-poor. Of course, the money comes from the taxpayers. At least, the government is trying to alleviate poverty even though without a means stopping money going to the greedy landlords. Without some form of commercial rent control, landlord gets richer and working-poor poorer.
It will bewilder me if any government financially aided folk gets their food from supermarket. I know where part of government’s subsidies would directly go to.


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