About 1.25 million Hong Kong people were living below the poverty line last year with an average income of less than $2,550 a month, an alliance of welfare groups said yesterday. Livelihood 21, an alliance of 24 groups, said that according to last year's income figures from the Census and Statistics Department, poor people accounted for 17.8 per cent of the population. A total of 1.23 million were living below the poverty line in 1999. The alliance sets the poverty line at $2,550 a month per household, calculated as half of the average household's monthly income of $5,100. It said children under 15 living in poor households topped the poverty population list at 29.2 per cent, followed by people over 65 at 26.9 per cent. There is no official poverty line in Hong Kong because officials say poor families can apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, while heavily subsidised public housing, medicine and education are available to the majority of SAR residents. Livelihood 21 spokesman the Reverend Li Kin-wah warned yesterday that the gap between rich and poor would worsen in the next few years. 'I'm very worried the situation will worsen, as the recovery of the global economy has been set back by the New York attacks. Hong Kong will surely be affected,' he said. The group wants the Government to use its financial reserves to create more jobs. 'The reserves are for dealing with emergencies like the poverty problem we are now facing. The Government should not just hold on to the money regardless of what people are suffering,' Mr Li said.