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Poverty

A universal pension scheme would give Hong Kong’s ‘cardboard grannies’ the break they deserve

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 4:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 4:17pm

Unfortunately, the sight of elderly women pushing carts piled high with waste cardboard is not an uncommon sight in Hong Kong. Estimates vary, but there are several thousand elderly people working long days and into the night collecting cardboard to sell to recyclers. Meanwhile, your report on “street stall grannies” who sell second-hand goods highlighted the plight of the elderly poor (“Street stall grannies’ a sign Hong Kong elderly falling through cracks”, September 22).

Some street scavengers are as old as 90 but they are forced to do this work because Hong Kong does not have a universal pension scheme to support them. A survey conducted this year by concern group Waste Picker Platform found that on average street scavengers who sold scraps for recycling managed to earn just HK$716 (US$91) a month.

It is shameful that Hong Kong boasts of being a world-class city yet the Gini coefficient showing the disparity between the rich and the poor is 0.539, well above the alarming level of 0.4. The government, with financial reserves at around HK$1 trillion (US$130 billion), has the money to urgently implement a pension scheme that offers some dignity to the needy in their old age. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should consider this a priority.

Lau Shui Sang, Kwai Chung

Watch: A day in the life of a Hong Kong cardboard collector

Collectors deserve respect for valuable service

I am writing in response to Kimmy Chung's report “Living in the cracks of society’: a day on the road with Hong Kong’s scavenging ‘cardboard grannies” (September 7).

Many of the elderly people who collect cardboard from the streets did not get an education when they were children because their families could not afford school fees. That’s why many of our senior citizens today cannot find better jobs but they still benefit society. If they didn’t collect the cardboard, our streets would be a mess. Their work should be recognised and reflected in a name befitting their valuable contribution to society, not the disparaging term “cardboard grannies”.

The government should take steps to enhance the income of these elderly street collectors, so that they can support themselves and help their families.

Summer Ting, Tseung Kwan O