Hong Kong government gives HK$150 million to needy local families

More than 12,000 families, who are living below the poverty line but not already on welfare, received a share of the payout from the low-income working family allowance scheme

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 August, 2016, 5:57pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2016, 6:40pm

The government has given around HK$150 million to some 12,000 families as part of its effort to curb poverty, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung has said.

In a blog post published on Saturday, Cheung said authorities received more than 30,000 applications for the low-income working family allowance scheme by the end of July.

The minister added that since the government began receiving applications in May, 12,406 families had been granted the allowance, benefitting 49,285 people.

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“The payment should be timely particularly for those families having to cope with the additional expenses arising at the beginning of the school year,” Cheung wrote.

The scheme, which began this year, aims to help families living below the poverty line – defined as those families earning 50 per cent or less of the median household income – but who are not on welfare.

It also targets those who are living on the brink of the poverty line to prevent them from falling below it.

To be eligible, families need to have at least two people, where one of whom works at least 144 hours a month.

They will either receive HK$600 or HK$1,000 a month depending on how many hours they work.

In addition, each dependent child will receive HK$400 or HK$800 a month.

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According to Cheung, close to 80 per cent of the successful applications are families with four or more members, while only 168 are families of two.

Of the 49,285 people who benefit from the scheme, around 46 per cent are children.

According to Cheung, more than 90 per cent of the applicants work more than 192 hours a month, and therefore are granted the higher rate allowance.

The official added that many of the applicants live in Kwun Tong, Yuen Long, Kwai Tsing, Sham Shui Po and Tuen Mun.

Cheung said the government will conduct a review of the policy a year after its implementation in mid-2017.

On Sunday, Cheung defended the scheme after questions were raised as to why the number of applicants was still so far below the government’s estimate of 200,000 households.

Cheung said government statisticians could not measure families’ full asset backgrounds. The initial estimates were based on income and working hours.

He said the Labour and Welfare Bureau would strengthen promotion of the scheme and encourage more families in need to apply.