Cut in minimum working hours to give more families low-income benefits

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 May, 2014, 3:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 May, 2014, 3:00am

The minimum working hours to qualify for a low-income family subsidy are to be lowered by 16 hours a month to an "absolute baseline" for the government.

The welfare chief said yesterday the proposed threshold for the full subsidy of HK$1,000 would be lowered from 208 to 192, adding 61,000 families to the list of those qualifying.

"This is our absolute baseline, taking into account its effects on the labour market as well," Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said.

But a pressure group helping the working poor said the change would have little real impact.

The subsidy, applying to families with at least one member in full-time employment, is due to start next year. Those working 192 to 144 hours will receive HK$600 while those with children will get an extra HK$800 or HK$400 per child according to their working hours.

Under the latest proposal, 60 per cent of about 204,000 families set to benefit will now qualify for the full HK$1,000.

Herrick Lee Yen-hao, of the pressure group Concerning CSSA and Low Income Alliance, said the change was only slight and the threshold should be 176 hours. He said this was based on 22 working days a month, five days a week and eight hours a day. The government's 192 hours was based on 24 working days.

"It's a matter of principle - employees should not have work take over their whole life."

Pro-democracy lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee, a member of the Commission on Poverty, agreed the level should be 176 hours. "The government has made a concession but it is not enough," he said.