For older workers seeking stability, a small pension is better than nothing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 4:00am

At 58 years old, security guard Yu Mei-wan is just a few years away from qualifying for proposed monthly universal pension payments after decades of working without any social security benefits from the government.

Yu is not particularly thrilled at the HK$3,000 payouts recommended in a government-commissioned study led by University of Hong Kong academic Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun.

"Of course it is not enough. But it's better than nothing," she said. "If I really get HK$3,000 a month, I will spend part of it and save the rest for possible medical purposes.

"In the past, I have thought about retiring at the age of 50. Now I am already 58 and I really don't know." The proposed plan's qualification age is 65.

Yu works at a Tai Po shopping centre for HK$30.20 an hour - just 20 cents more than the statutory minimum wage.

The job brings in about HK$8,000 a month. And with only HK$20,000 of savings in her bank account, it seems impossible to retire.

In the household, Yu's husband, 62, makes the most money - about HK$10,000 as a lorry driver. Her younger son, 32, earns HK$9,000 working in an estate management company.

"It would be great if the pension amount could be HK$4,000 or above," she said. "It should also be adjusted yearly according to inflation."

If Chow's proposal is introduced, Yu will have to contribute 1 per cent of her salary to the pension pool.

She said she and her children were willing to do so for the sake of their future.

"I am really looking forward to this. I have contributed to society for decades, and I am not getting any social security benefits from the government. I don't get a sense of security."

Yu also found it acceptable that, under Chow's proposal, employees making HK$20,000 to HK$120,000 a month need contribute only 2.5 per cent of their pay to the pension pool.

"If it is set too high, a lot of people will oppose it," she said.