One fifth of Hongkongers live below the poverty line: official report


A record 1.4 million people fell below the poverty threshold in 2018, but Secretary for Labour and Welfare defends government efforts

Wong Tsui-kai |

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A yearly comprehensive government report on poverty in Hong Kong was released  on Friday, where official figures showed more than 1.4 million people were living below the poverty line in 2018, around one-fifth of all Hongkongers. The figure rose by 0.3 per cent to 20.4 per cent from the previous year and is the second highest since records began in 2009.

Non-government think tank and human rights advocacy group the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) said “The rise in poverty shows lower-class people cannot share in the fruits of economic growth, and the poverty problem in Hong Kong remains severe.”

SoCO also points out the child poverty rate was at 23 per cent, with 237,000 minors, out of a total of just over 1 million, living in poverty. The rate dropped to 16.8 per cent, a total of 170,000, after the effects of welfare were calculated. While SoCO community organiser Sze Lai-shan, also a member of the Commission on Poverty, acknowledges the government has made a difference, she says they need to target specific groups, such as  the elderly or youth, and put in more effort.

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“What they need to do is aim at population segments and come up with targets and concurrent measures, not one-off handouts for students.” she said, also saying the current welfare policies are too inflexible.

SoCo added that in the long term, there should be  a review of educational support measures for children in poverty, including a review of student financial assistance and cost-of-living subsidies for students in tertiary education to improve the opportunities for youth to escape poverty.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong defended government efforts in relieving poverty, saying the number living below the poverty line should be 910,000 once the effects of government policies were taken into account.