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This page is updated on 2006-07-27 12:04
Christian Service News
Issue 47 (April 2005)
Chief Executive's Column
Poverty Amidst Affluence Hong Kong’s Shame and Opportunity
Chief Exectuive
NG Shui Lai

In spite of Hong Kong being an affluent society it has serious poverty problems. Towards the end of 2004, there were more than 290,000 persons on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, representing a 1.9% increase from 2003. Among them there is a 19.5% increase in the low-income category. This indicates an increasing trend of poverty. The average unemployment rate of Hong Kong is 7.9% higher than Taiwan, Mainland, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, UK and US. The unemployment rate of youth reaches an alarming 18.6%. The Gini-Coefficient that measures the gap between rich and poor increased from 0.451 in 1981 to 0.525 in 2001 and is the highest among the developed countries.

Government's measures have been concentrated on a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme for those who are unable to take care of themselves and a number of employment programes. The Government has failed to address the more fundamental issues such as distributive injustice and taxation reform, etc.

Recently the government tried to focus on stopping inter-generational poverty. It announced to launch a head-start program in 4 districts for children aged from 0 to 5 aiming at early identification for children affected by poverty. The government also tried to coordinate and put in additional resources for those aged from 6 to 15 to enhance their opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities. Various scholarship and allowance schemes were raised to make sure no one aged from 15 to 24 would be denied from further studies due to financial reasons. A high power Commission on Poverty was set up to look into the poverty problem from a macro perspective. It would come up with suggestions for special needs groups such as single parent, disable person and the elderly, etc. The Commission on Poverty is to be chaired by the Financial Secretary and members are from the commercial sector, scholars, legislative members and social workers, etc.

This is an important move but the result is yet to be seen. The success would depend on whether there is a paradigm shift of government poverty policy towards a sustainable development approach and whether it addresses core issues such as minimum wages, unemployment insurance, poverty line and relative poverty, etc.

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