Aged lose out in welfare payment fine print

  • A new supplement gave the impression that those aged between 60 and 64 would not lose money due to the increased minimum age for the elderly welfare payment
  • Yet one in three new applicants could lose up to 14 types of subsidies which could potentially amount to a few thousand dollars per month
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 February, 2019, 7:56pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 February, 2019, 10:21pm

Our labour and welfare secretary is smarter than he looks, but that just makes him meaner. You would think being one of the original Democrats and a long-time social work professor would make Law Chi-kwong more compassionate towards the grass roots. It turns out he fits right in the government bureaucracy and its money-pinching ways, at least when it comes to a welfare payment to the old and unprivileged.

After creating a new supplement of HK$1,060 a month for new applicants aged between 60 and 64 to make up for losses due to a policy change, Law gave the impression that he was willing to change course to placate public anger.

It turns out he is keeping the new age requirement for the elderly welfare payment, which has been raised from 60 to 65, for good reason. The new age means you are only “elderly” when you reach 65, not 60. This means getting HK$1,060 less per month if you are on welfare.

After an outcry and a united opposition from both the pan-democrats and the pro-government lawmakers, the government introduced the HK$1,060 supplement, making it look like new applicants won’t lose any money after all.

Lawmakers united against ‘heartless’ proposal for elderly welfare payments

Officials also waived a HK$200 penalty for new welfare recipients aged 60 to 64 who didn’t look for work.

The united opposition declared victory and went home. They didn’t read the fine print. Many had assumed the government just wanted to save face and so created the new supplement instead of dropping the age limit back to 60.

Now we know why. One in three new applicants aged 60 to 64 could lose up to 14 types of subsidies such as those for transport, housing and medical care, which could potentially amount to a few thousand dollars less per month for some new recipients after January.

Lam Ching-choi, chairman of the Elderly Commission, said up to 2,000 new applicants could be affected. Welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun claimed the real number could be 10 times as many. The Social Welfare Department has no estimates.

In other words, officials liked the idea of cutting the elderly welfare payment, and went ahead with it without estimating how many lives would be affected.

Meanwhile, the government plans to raise the monthly pay of a third of legislators by 10 per cent, and all district council members by 5.6 per cent, from next year. Who needs the money more?