Why Hong Kong can’t break the poverty cycle with bigger handouts

  • Hong Kong must resist calls by NGOs to increase welfare payments to the poor, as it would only prevent families in need from taking responsibility for their own choices
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 10:15pm

The Society for Community Organisation recently criticised the Hong Kong government for its failure to alleviate poverty in the city and called for more financial support for the impoverished. They have also called for a full review of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA), which was then rejected by the welfare secretary.

Although I believe that the government has the responsibility to look after the underprivileged, too much welfare or protection may not necessarily be good for society as a whole.

We already have plenty of social security measures aimed at easing the burden of poor families, including CSSA, low-income working family subsides, special subsidies for children, and so on. The government has also allocated resources to non-governmental organisations to help the needy.

Record 1.37 million people living below poverty line in Hong Kong

Admittedly, some people still suffer from financial hardship, despite all the government assistance. Some impoverished children still face hurdles to a well-rounded education, such as not being able to take part in extracurricular activities because their families cannot afford it. Trans-generational poverty also continues to be a problem.

However, as a voluntary teacher who has taught underprivileged children, I have seen how our welfare system has produced irresponsible parents who let their children suffer. Many of these parents make no plans before having children. Some, despite finding it hard to make ends meet, insist on having a second or even third child, secure in the knowledge that they can receive more government subsidies.

Whatever the true numbers, poverty is a blight on Hong Kong

Some also claim that they cannot work because they have to look after their children. As a result, unsuitable men and women become unsuitable parents who let their children grow up in unsuitable living conditions. If you already live a hand-to-mouth existence or have no time to look after your children, why do you want to have still more?

The Society for Community Organisation and other NGOs always call for increases in the CSSA. Of course, more subsidies can ease the financial burden of the needy in the short term – more food to eat, more money to spend, more clothes to wear. However, what about in the long term? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. What they are doing is creating a vicious cycle attracting abusers of the system and bringing more misfortune to children living in poverty.

Anson CY Chan, North Point