Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities must not be forgotten
A society can be judged by how it treats its underprivileged people, in particular those of different ethnic origins. In Hong Kong, racial conflicts are thankfully not a major problem. And there are institutional safeguards to protect the rights and welfare of ethnic minorities. That said, it would be disingenuous to pretend that there is no cause for concern when it comes to integration and acceptance. Equal access and opportunities remain an issue in need of greater policy intervention.
The latest study tabled to the Poverty Commission calls for greater efforts on this front. Using the general poverty line adopted by the previous administration a few years ago, it was found that the poverty rate among ethnic minorities hit 19.4 per cent in 2016, up from 15.8 per cent in 2011.
Although the figure was lowered to 17.6 per cent after taking into account government support such as public housing and subsidies, it is still higher than that of the general population. The proportion among South Asians is even more disturbing, with many Pakistani and Nepalis struggling below the poverty line.
The difficulties facing our ethnic minorities have not been addressed with the right sense of priority as it should be. Despite a so-called inclusion approach, many families and individuals are still having difficulties in integrating into mainstream society. Long-standing language and education barriers mean they tend to possess less qualifications and skills, thereby affecting their employability in our competitive workforce.
Unfortunately, our social welfare safety net may not reach all those in need. Certainly, some families have turned to the government for public housing and social security, but the high proportion of the so-called working poor among ethnic minorities suggest there are still gaps in our supporting services. There have been suggestions that many are simply unaware of the services available or have been put off because of language barriers.
The worsening poverty does not square with our image as a caring society. As we step up efforts to alleviate poverty, let’s not forget the plight of our ethnic minorities.