Extra $1.5b sought for social welfare

Cynthia Wan

An extra $1.5 billion is needed in increased social security payments, mostly for the unemployed and new migrants, Director of Social Welfare Andrew Leung Kin-pong says.

Mr Leung said his department would apply for the extra money from the Legislative Council finance committee at the end of the year.

The Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme was allocated $11.5 billion in April for the current financial year.

Mr Leung said the extra funds were needed mainly as a result of rising unemployment.

'It can be understood that it must be very difficult for newcomers from the mainland to find jobs in the economic slump,' he said.

Last month, the number of jobless people on benefits jumped 55.5 per cent to 25,116, compared to 16,152 in the same period last year. At the same time, 20,100 new migrants were on the dole. No previous figures were kept.


Mr Leung rejected suggestion that only mainlanders with certain qualifications should be allowed to move to Hong Kong.

'Besides their personal qualities, family reunions should be considered,' he said. Until last month, there were 215,025 CSSA cases, compared to 179,811 in the same period last year.

Unemployment contributed to about 11 per cent of all cases. Single-parent cases have risen by 36.8 per cent to 20,248 compared to last year.

Most of the unemployed recipients were unskilled workers, such as construction workers, retail workers and watchmen, aged above 40.


The department has asked for an extra $2.06 billion in January on top of its $11.9 billion allocation in the 1997-98 Budget.

Democratic Party legislator Fred Li Wah-ming said the $1.5 billion might not be enough. 'The increase in the cases in different categories is going up by more than 10 per cent a month,' Mr Li said. 'Another appeal for more money may be needed.'