The Social Development Index 2004 compiled by the
Hong Kong Council of Social Service indicates that although
Hong Kong society has continued to develop, poverty
and family solidarity have deteriorated.
According to the findings, the weighted Social Development
Index 2004, which reflects the social aspect of Hong
Kong society in year 2002, reads 147 (index at 1991
was 100). That means Hong Kong has developed in the
social aspect by 47% in 10 years' time.
Nevertheless, amidst this promising picture, there
are areas that need specific attention. The index measuring
the development of low income groups records a regression
of -119, which means that the situation of these low
income groups are 119% worse than what they have been
Similarly, the index reflecting family solidarity in
Hong Kong shows that the family system is facing a critical
challenge. The index of 2002 is -150, representing a
150% worsening of family solidarity as compared to 1991.
Regressions are also observed in the development of
youths and children, the indexes of which read -76 and
It is obvious that more concern and resources should
be spent to enhance the development of children and
youths, and in particular the low-income groups. It
is a shame for Hong Kong that while she enjoys economic
recovery and social development, there is still a part
of her, the vulnerable groups, that continues to suffer.
It would be unreasonable to cut CSSA further at this
time as it is a major source of income for low-income
groups. According to recent official economic statistics
such as CPI (Consumer Price Indices), Hong Kong is coming
out of deflation and may be moving towards inflation.
This means that the prices of commodities will go up
continuously in the near future. It is anticipated that
the prices of daily necessities such as food, electricity,
gas, and housing will experience a higher and faster
rate of increase. These necessities usually occupy a
major portion of monthly expenses of low-income families.
A further deduction of CSSA in October as proposed by
the government will in fact rub salt on the wounds of
the low-income families, who are suffering from unemployment,
low-income and increasing expenditure. The government
should consider lifting this decision so as to show
a genuine concern for the vulnerable groups.
Furthermore, youths at present are suffering from high
unemployment, whilst the proportion of their younger
counterparts living in low-income families increased
in the past few years. The government should consider
enlarging the scope and reinforcing the support services
for the unemployed youths. For example, Associate Degree
programs should continue to be subsidized, as this is
a major channel that the youths who are not admitted
to the universities can have further development and
avoid being marginalized from the mainstream society
in the future. A little saving in public expenditure
at present may result in deterioration of the quality
of human capital that may in turn assert greater pressure
on social cost in the future.
Public expenditure on low-income groups, youths and
children is an investment for the future. The government
should give this serious consideration.