Government spending on elderly has risen by hefty 42 per cent

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 February, 2016, 4:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 February, 2016, 4:40pm

I refer to the letters by Cathy Yuen (“CY fails the elderly and students”) and Cayla Chiu (“Policy address falls short on retirement plan”) published on February 7.

Let me stress that the current-term Hong Kong SAR government attaches great importance to supporting the elderly. Indeed, elderly care tops our policy agenda.

The chief executive stated in his election manifesto that the government would study “how to introduce short, medium and long-term measures to solve the problem of elderly poverty and improve the present social security and retirement protection systems”.

The Old Age Living Allowance – a key policy initiative – has been introduced since 2013. It is benefiting around 430,000 senior citizens with its monthly allowance of HK$2,390.

Taking into account the recipients of the Old Age Allowance, Disability Allowance and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, as many as 820,000 senior citizens aged 65 or above (accounting for a significant 73 per cent of our entire elderly population) are currently protected by our social security net.

The government is fully committed to enhancing the well-being of our elderly citizens. The Commission on Poverty has been tasked to identify ways to enhance retirement protection in Hong Kong with a view to better addressing the financial difficulties facing elderly people. The fact that the government has decided to take forward the public consultation on the complex subject of retirement protection underlines our political courage. We simply do not shy away from contentious social issues.

The consultation document contains a large volume of facts and figures. We are mounting a major public engagement exercise to facilitate rational and in-depth discussion on this important issue. We encourage the public to voice their views before the consultation ends on June 21.

The government provides a full range of services to meet the needs of our elderly citizens.

A host of new initiatives have been implemented to enhance both residential and community care, and promote active ageing in recent years.

Recurrent government expenditure on the elderly (including mainly elderly care services, financial assistance for the elderly and elderly health services) has risen by a hefty 42 per cent from HK$43.6 billion in 2012-13 to an estimated HK$62 billion in 2015-16, accounting for 19.1 per cent of overall government recurrent expenditure. This testifies to our continuous commitment to improve the well-being of our elderly citizens.

Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, secretary for labour and welfare