Low-income families have been pushed into areas where jobs are hard to find The wholesale relocation of low- income families from urban areas to the New Territories where jobs are scarce has been blamed for a leap in the number of dole recipients in three districts. The number of welfare claimants in Islands, Sai Kung and Yuen Long has increased by up to 250 per cent in the past four years, a time when large numbers of people were moved to public flats in new towns in the three districts. Topping the list is Islands, where the number of people on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance has risen from 3,359 in 2000 to 11,770 last year, an increase of 250 per cent Next is Sai Kung with 24,227, up from 11,756, a rise of 106 per cent, followed by Yuen Long with a 103 per cent leap, official figures show. District councillors and social workers blamed the increases on the public housing policy and high transport costs that inhibited residents from travelling to areas where they could find work. They urged the government to promote the economy in the three districts to avoid further social problems and conflicts caused by poverty. Islands district councillor Andy Lo Kwong-shing said many low-income families from the inner city had been moved into new public estates, especially Tung Chung on Lantau Island. Mr Lo said that instead of only addressing the housing needs of such families, the government should also think about job creation. 'The costly travel expenses have discouraged the low-income families from seeking jobs in urban districts. It appears that the only solution is to stimulate the economy in Tung Chung to create jobs for residents,' he said. The increase in welfare recipients in Sai Kung is accounted for mainly by newcomers to Tseung Kwan O, according to district councillor Lam Ching-choi. Dr Lam called on the government to step up promotion of tourism in Sai Kung and to attract more businesses to build their factories there and create jobs. Peter Kwan Kin-shing, director of the Hong Kong Student Aid Society, which provides welfare services in Kwun Tong and Yuen Long, said many CSSA recipients in Yuen Long were new migrants and single parents living in Tin Shui Wai. Legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, deputy chairman of Legco's welfare services panel, warned that failure by the government to tackle poverty in the districts would result in more family problems and social conflict. He said the government should promote labour-intensive industries such as environmental and recycling businesses because those districts offered enough room for them. The legislator added that the Social Welfare Department should provide more after-school care places to make it easier for single parents to find work. Yuen Long had the highest rate of residents receiving CSSA payments - 11.8 per cent. It was followed by Kwun Tong (11.3 per cent) and Shamshuipo (11.2 per cent).