Hong Kong poverty worries young more than older people

Oxfam survey also finds about two-thirds think new minimum wage is still too low

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 7:27pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 5:53pm

Young Hongkongers are more concerned about poverty than their elders, with over 65 per cent saying it is a serious problem in the city, Oxfam Hong Kong has found.

And about two-thirds of all Hongkongers think the new minimum wage of HK$34.5 an hour, which will come into effect in May, is still too low, according to the survey released on Thursday.

It found over half of 1,000 respondents polled by Chinese University of Hong Kong in January thought poverty was serious.

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But it was respondents aged 18 to 39 who were most concerned, with 65.4 per cent saying the issue was serious, compared with 47.6 per cent of those aged 40 to 59, and 46.4 per cent of people aged over 60.

Although all ages agreed that elderly poverty was the biggest issue, only 35.2 per cent of young people thought the elderly were the most impacted group, compared with 38.4 per cent of 40 to 59-year-olds and 48.9 per cent of the over-60s.

But young people were more concerned about other forms of poverty, with one-third saying intergenerational poverty was the most serious issue, compared with 9.7 cent of those aged over 60.

Intergenerational poverty is when a person continues to live in poverty as an adult after growing up in households with limited means, as the effects of growing up in poverty, such as poor education and ill-health, continue to affect their lives.

Oxfam Hong Kong programme manager Wong Shek-hung said poverty was a particular concern for young people as they were often on low wages themselves.

“They are feeling very frustrated,” she told the Post. “I think they experience the problem now existing.”

Almost one million people in the city are living in poverty according to the government’s 2015 Poverty Situation Report – and about 30 per cent of them are elderly, Wong said.

“The poverty in Hong Kong is very serious,” Wong said. “Elderly poverty is still the greatest challenge to Hong Kong.”

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People in general were more concerned with the issue than in the past, Wong said, with many supporting policy changes that would alleviate poverty.

Nearly 40 per cent of all respondents wanted to see the minimum wage increased to over HK$45 an hour, while a quarter wanted it to range from HK$40 to HK$45, the survey found.

Oxfam has called on the government to review the minimum wage annually, rather than every two years, as it consistently lags behind inflation.

The group also wants to see the government extend the retirement protection system so elderly living with their children can also get financial support.

In 2015, the government set the poverty line for one-person households at HK$3,800 per month, and HK$8,800 for two-person households.