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HK Magazine Archive

Three Years On: Kids, Old People, Poor People

How has CY Leung managed welfare and the poverty gap in the last three years?
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:44pm

He Said:

  • Protect old people!
  • Improve MPF!
  • Paternity leave!
  • 15 years of free education!
  • Make poverty suck less!

He Did:

  • Under a scheme launched last year, the government earmarked $50 billion for enhanced welfare measures, including free transportation for the poor, elderly and disabled. This became a scheme by which trips by MTR, bus and ferry for those over 65 and people with disabilities max out at $2, with the government making up the difference. The government says it will revisit the question of free transport next year.
  • A universal pension scheme is being discussed, although nothing concrete has come of it. CY has said he hopes a decision will be made on a pension fund within his term of office, but he has yet to offer a workable plan and has himself questioned if the idea will be sustainable.
  • Meanwhile, CY’s track record on MPF hasn’t been sterling. He’s raised the amount that workers must contribute to their pensions. This move has been widely criticized, because while returns on investment have been a fairly respectable 4.3 percent, high fund manager commissions and inflation mean the average take-home return after retirement is less than 1 percent. Ouch.

 

“If it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you’d be talking to the half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than US$1,800 a month… Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies.”
October 20, 2014: CY gives an interview to the International NYT, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, warning that democracy gives poor people a say.

 

  • CY has successfully pushed through paternity leave, with fathers now entitled to three days of paid leave. The arrangement represents a compromise between employer and worker representatives on the Labour Advisory Board but labor activists, who had been pressing for the change for nine years, say they will continue fighting for more generous terms. Three days ain’t much, but it’s a start.
  • CY’s commitment to extending free education has not come to fruition in the same way. New proposals leave kindergartens incompletely funded, with an estimated 40 percent of parents still required to pay fees. Unhappy parents have described it as “fake free education.” 
  • The government has announced the Low-Income Working Family Allowance to be launched the second quarter of 2016 and worth $3 billion a year. The scheme is intended to benefit 710,000 people in over 200,000 working poor families, although specifics are still nonexistent.

The Grade: C-