HK$2.5 billion spent on social security for new Hong Kong immigrants in past three years

Lawmakers say sum is too much, and resources should go to locals first

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 11:35am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 11:38am

The decision in 2013 by Hong Kong’s top court to allow new immigrants to apply for social security has cost taxpayers HK$2.5 billion over the past three years, according to latest government records.

The unanimous Court of Final Appeal ruling four years ago meant new arrivals did not need to live in the city for at least seven years – a previous requirement deemed unconstitutional – before they can apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) benefits.

Following the court decision then, the administration restored the “one-year residence requirement”, which was originally in effect before being replaced by the seven-year rule in 2004.

Letters: Reform CSSA scheme so people get help and have incentive to work

In a written reply to pan-democratic lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen’s inquiries about the government’s annual budget, the Social Welfare Department revealed that 6,754 CSSA applications – by those who have been living in the city for less than seven years – were approved as of last December.

A majority of them – 4,677 cases – were approved in the first financial year since the one-year rule was restored, with a successful application rate of 80 per cent.

In the financial year of 2015/2016, only 1,339 out of 4,380 applications were approved, while 738 out of 2,979 applications received the green light in the last financial year as of December 2016.

Most of the cases involved single parents, followed by elderly people and those with ill health.

The estimated expenditure on CSSA recipients who had resided in Hong Kong for less than seven years was HK$2.5 billion in total, the paper showed.

Letters: Too many mainland immigrants coming into Hong Kong with one-way permits

Pan-democratic lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said she was taken aback by the sum, describing the trend as “alarming”.

“HK$2.5 billion is definitely more than we expected,” she said. “Resources should be spent on Hongkongers first.”

Mo also called on the local government to regain control of the one-way permit scheme, which allows up to 150 mainlanders with families in Hong Kong to settle in the city. The central government currently holds the authority to vet such immigration applications.

“It is acceptable for mainlanders to reunite with their families in Hong Kong. But many of those applicants are coming via immigration marriage fraud,” Mo said, referring to individuals who ‘marry’ a Hongkonger only for the administrative purpose of settling in the city.