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  • Sep 3, 2014
  • Updated: 4:07pm
NewsHong Kong

New study says 1.47 million 'poor and deprived' in Hong Kong

Independent study that factors in quality of life says there are 160,000 more needy people in HK than identified in recent government report

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 4:30am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 5:13am

About one in five Hongkongers lives a poor and deprived life, struggling to afford three square meals a day and shut out of normal social interaction, a new study reveals.

Said to be more comprehensive than the government's poverty report released in September, the joint study by British and Hong Kong academics paints a bleaker picture of the city's poor.

It takes into account not just income but deprivation, and how some in the city are forced to forgo items and social activities that most people consider customary, said lead researcher Professor David Gordon of the University of Bristol.

Based on that definition, the number of needy people exceeds 1.47 million - about 160,000 more than the government's estimate of 1.31 million announced in September.

"This report tells us a lot more about the poor than the poverty line defined by the [government-appointed] Commission on Poverty," said Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun of the University of Hong Kong, who did not take part in the study.

"I'm sure the findings will be related [to the government study] and benefit officials greatly when they make policies."

After 10 months of discussions by the commission, the government arrived at the figure of 1.31 million by drawing the poverty line at half the median household income.

But Gordon said poverty was defined as having insufficient resources over time, and the result of poverty was deprivation in which one became excluded from full participation in society.

"Poverty is a dynamic and not a static concept," he said. "To measure just income would be to ignore the dynamic changes."

The University of Bristol and City University of Hong Kong conducted the study, the first of three, on about 600 households comprising 1,900 Hongkongers from December to May.

Researchers listed 30 items and activities for adults and 22 for children as customary in Hong Kong society, apart from measuring their household incomes.

Examples were being able to afford fresh fruit or vegetables, taking part in celebrations such as for the Lunar New Year and, for children, joining at least one extracurricular activity in school.

They found 21 per cent of Hongkongers were poor, with another 20 per cent vulnerable, defined as being on the edge of poverty. Figures among children were worse, with 27 per cent deemed poor and 22 per cent considered vulnerable.

Revealing the official poverty statistics on September 28, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said: "Complete eradication of poverty is impossible when the concept of relative poverty is adopted."

However, Gordon said: "To say that you can't eradicate poverty is abusing the relative poverty concept. That is not correct."

He cited Sweden, which has a poverty rate of 3 per cent.

"If the poverty line is not tied to poverty alleviation, it's then not of much use," he said.



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Complete eradication of poverty is impossible, but there is something morally wrong with a government that has over a trillion dollars in reserves but a population where over 20% live below the poverty line.
The Key to Poverty Allieviation is always Job Creation and Affordable Living. Jobs can only be created if the business environment is friendly: i.e. low tax, small government, little corruption, rule of law & financial integrity. Businesses won't invest if taxes are high and red tape abounds. Job creation should also include encouraging high value added jobs and industries, that usually comes with Innovation. Innovation thrives when there is high degree of Education, little Government Bureaucracy, Control or Intervention, few Monopolies or Oligopolies, low Operating Costs, Capital, and Freedom of Expression and Thought, Just observe the countries with high levels of Innovation. Affordable/Free Education and Healthcare are also part of the solution. Government has to ensure Affordable Housing & adequate Land for commercial and residential property development. High Property cost is the main culprit driving up costs for individuals and businesses. Hiking minimum wage inflationary and will further drive up business cost resulting in fewer jobs and more poverty. Minimum wage is just a computation of the minimum cost of living. Comparisons with Nordic countries where the population density is low is irrelevant and naive. Both the government and public have a moral duty to provide basic social welfare safety net for the poor. There is no single silver bullet but a combination of pragmatic solutions.
Sound money now! Rewards worker and savers, and not borrowers and leveraged speculation!
Decentralist with your reasoning, why have minimum wages at all? Why don't we let people work for HK$5/hour? I mean that would give a few more people a job.. It's about create a society where all the wealth does not go to the people with capital and making sure something is left for the working man. You need to read this: ****www.pimco.com/EN/Insights/Pages/Scrooge-McDucks.aspx
A minimum wage is a third person showing up with a gun dictating the conditions under the threat of violence when two parties are negotiating a voluntary agreement. So no - minimum wages are morally appalling and should not exist in a civilized society believing that violence is unacceptable. If I decide I want to work for 1 dollar an hour, should you have the right to force me not to? Fortunately the accumulated capital stock in HK and the resulting productivity improvements allows anyone the possibility to make a decent salary. Granting more power to the government is the same as transferring power to the rich. Hong Kong is just another example of a fact with no exceptions - the state and its bureaucrats is violence for sale. Every major problem in HK is a consequence of political involvement and the most devastating one is the monopoly of land. This is not only creating insane housing costs and corruption but also channeling capital to the unproductive and protected construction industry and effectively preventing new businesses and sectors to flourish. Before reading your link I'm very interested in your response to the fact that Americans of Swedish ancestry (now we're talking ancestors 100+ years ago) and native Swedes share the same GINI index, murder rate, average life expectancy etc. And if you don't believe the consequences of minimum salaries, how do you explain that only 20% (!!!) of Sweden's Somali immigrants aged 20-64 have a regular job?
I have no idea about this GINI coefficient being the same for Swedish ancestry and native swedes, I can only speculate. The moved to the region most similar to Sweden and that part of the US is pretty similar to Sweden (I've been to Minneapolis twice), maybe it's a coincidence, maybe its not, who cares. What does it prove?
Of course minimum salaries will on the one hand require the workforce to have some minimum amount of skill making them profitable. But it will also make companies to share more of their profits with the labor force if they want to operate in Hongkong. Lowering property prices would make companies able to still be profitable and at the same time pay higher salaries.
Why does income disparity exist at all? And who will decide the optimum level? Answers to these questions will never be answered by the people raising the topic. Why? Because it is all about securing more power to politicians and big business by introducing new regulations and increasing taxes. I read that some dreamers here think that 15000 HKD would be the perfect God given minimum wage, enforced by the threat of violence. But why not 150 000 or 1,5 million? The consequence of raising minimum wages is job loss for the least productive AND increased price level. How would that help the poor? As for Sweden with its massive taxes for citizens (but not companies) and heavy labor regulations, the GINI index is identical to Americans of Swedish ancestry.
Poverty by definition may mean some people are worse off compared to others in a given state of a society and the standard can differ between countries. What is considered poverty line in a developing economy may not exist in a well-developed economy like Hong Kong where one can be certain that no one goes without food in any given day whereas in some countries in Africa this is a strong possibility! In an otherwise affluent society like Hong Kong it is true there is a wide gap between the so-called rich and the poor, and it is in this context the Government of Hong Kong can do something to ensure better redistribution of wealth through social welfare schemes which can benefit more the less well-off, as is already somewhat done but there is a lot of room for improvement!
Companies with shops, take anything, like Sa Sa, afford to pay rents in the hundreds of thousands. But the people who work in a Sa Sa store only see some crumbs of that as salary.
* Raise minimum wages progressively to 15 000 HKD over a 5 year period.
* Do something extreme about this insane property market, build property on 25% of Lantau or something.
* Create a more reasonable tax ladder which tops out around 30% but where 75% of the population pay the same amount of tax as before.
I'm from Sweden and I think the 3 above would go a long way to create a better society in HK for the middle and lower class. The upper 10-15% would squeal a bit, but they wouldn't move anyway.
The issue is not taxes and although I'd be happy to pay more, trust me that what looks like a great salary here is often bled away in massive rent and school fees (for expats anyway, not all of us are rich you know). Besides, like someone above rightly pointed out, HK has a HUGE budget surplus which they squander away like unimaginative lemming in cash rebates to folks who don't need it. What are they doing with it? How is it being spent? Why aren't they deploying that surplus to help our underprivileged. It's a crying shame that HK has such a high poverty rate. It makes me sick.
Again, please don't call for more building - speculative home buying has left a humungous number of flats unoccupied for years in HK. Release this idle capacity, force landlords to rent -- you'll have that supply you're looking for. But it won't happen, because of the incestuous nexus between politicians and business here.
New York Times recently featured a study that proved rich people actually do care less and have lower empathy. A free market dominated by such people is never going to end well for the bottom percentiles of society. Government needs to speak for our POOR, not our privileged few.




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