Sunday, 16 October 2016

Hardly Helping the Poor

A "coffin-sized" home is the situation for many living below the poverty line
When Leung Chun-ying was running for chief executive, he pledged to tackle poverty issues, giving the impression he is a man of the people, unlike his then competitor Henry Tang Ying-yen who seemed to be with the elitist crowd.

But four years after Leung became the leader of Hong Kong, the number of poor has increased to a six-year high under his watch.

How did that happen?

Leung's pledge to fight poverty has had no effective results
The Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report 2015 was released yesterday, and it showed 20,000 more people were living below the poverty line in 2015 compared to the year before, a total of 1.34 million.

The poverty line was set up in 2013 and calculated as half the median household income according to household size. Those living below it are considered poor, even taking into account government subsidies and handouts.

Around 477,500 are categorized as "working poor" families, of which 14,200 are degree holders.

The elderly at 65 years and older are most vulnerable, as one in three live in poverty, while one and two-person households are likely the elderly and single-parent families.

Social workers criticized the government for just throwing money at the problem instead of trying to get at the root cause, such as providing more low-income housing, and not taking into account actual living costs.

One in three elderly live in poverty in Hong Kong
"The current poverty line for a one-person household, HK$3,800, is too low. How could someone earning HK$4,000 per month not be considered poor?" asked veteran social worker Ho Hei-wah of the Society for Community Organization.

"A coffin-sized home already costs them some HK$1,000. How could they live with the rest of the money?"

At the Commission on Poverty summit on Saturday, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-nor tried to spin the results as saying the the poverty rate was "stable", much to the dismay of social workers, who find it bizarre that even though the government claims to be working hard for the poor, its efforts have hardly made a dent into trying to reduce the poverty rate.

As this latest report is seen as a kind of report card on Leung's performance as chief executive, the results are shockingly bad. Can we not have some long-term goals on how we can help the poor live better lives than just think about short-term solutions?

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