How many Hong Kong families have been shut out from receiving low-income allowance

About 32,000 applications were approved for the Low-income Working Family Allowance last year

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 March, 2017, 10:53pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 March, 2017, 10:53pm

The majority of working families on low incomes are not receiving welfare assistance owing to a raft of overbearing requirements, ­a community group said.

About 32,000 applications were approved for the Low-income Working Family Allowance up to December 23 last year, ­according to then secretary for labour and welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung.

But Sze Lai-shan, an organiser with the Society for Community Organisation (Soco), said the ­figure fell well short of the 200,000 families expected to benefit from the welfare programme.

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A survey by Soco of 170 working low-income families from ­November last year to January found that 48.5 per cent did not apply for the allowance.

Of those, about 40 per cent said they were unable to fulfil the criteria, while 27.5 per cent had difficulties in obtaining the proof required to even apply.

Of the respondents who could not fulfil the criteria, 66.7 per cent were reported to have family members who exceeded the ­income cap. Many were also ­reported to have family members who did not meet the working hours requirement.

The monthly income limit for a full-rate allowance for a two-person family is HK$9,100, while a half-rate is HK$10,900. Those ­living alone are not entitled.

Minimum monthly working hours are 144 for non-single-parent families, and 36 for single-parent families. The basic monthly allowance ranges from HK$300 to HK$600.

Sze said the income cap was too low many families could only work part-time, which made it hard to achieve the minimum working hours requirement.

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Lucy, 36, a single mother who works one to two hours per day as a dishwasher, said she could not meet the required minimum working hours because she has to take care of her daughter.

“My boss also does not want to help prove the number of hours I am working. He said he did not want to hire me anymore if it was so troublesome,” she said.

While her daughter receives a HK$5,000 allowance from her ­ex-husband, she only earns HK$2,000 to HK$3,000 per month and must spend HK$4,000 of that on rent.

Soco urged the government to extend the allowance to include people who live alone, raise the income cap, reduce the working hours requirement and allow applicants to declare their hours.