Wednesday, 30 September 2015

More Falling Below Poverty Line

Hong Kong's working poor are barely making ends meet due to inflation
Oxfam Hong Kong has released a report saying the number of working poor families -- households living under the poverty line with at least one family member working -- has increased by 10 percent in five years to 190,000 families.

During this period another 18,100 families have fallen into poverty so that the total number of working poor households is 647,500, accounting for half of Hong Kong people living below the poverty line.

Meanwhile Hong Kong's richest 1 percent owned half the city's wealth last year.

Twenty-five richest people in the city amassed HK$1.513 trillion -- yes TRILLION -- which is incidentally more than the Hong Kong government's own reserves at HK$1.5 trillion.

"Since [the government] was supposedly dealing with the poverty issue in the past few years, the number should be on the decrease. To have a double-digit rise is quite a lot, and means that what we've done so far is not enough," said Oxfam program manager Wong Shek-hung.

Wong said this was because minimum wage was not high enough to meet people's basic needs as well as inflation, and that the mandatory provident fund was hardly enough, nor did it benefit employees.

From next year the government will hand out low-income family assistance to working poor families with children, but Wong said while it was welcome, it wasn't enough to adequately deal with the situation.

Associate professor of social work at Chinese University Wong Hung said the 10 percent increase was an obvious surge and evidence that Hong Kong had changed. He noted that having a job did not necessarily mean a person let alone a family could make enough to cover basic needs.

"In the past five years, our economy hasn't been bad and the unemployment rate has been low, but the jobs available do not pay well, and there is low labour protection," he said. "Most are contract or part-time jobs. This explains why there are more working poor."

Of the number of working poor, only 7.5 percent are on welfare, called Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), while 53.6 percent live on a monthly income of less than the average welfare payment.

Some people do not qualify for CSSA because their income may be a bit more than the requirement, or some are too proud to take handouts.

There are around 1.34 million Hong Kong people who live below the poverty line. While Leung Chun-ying's administration has finally tackled the issue of defining poverty line, how about actually doing something to help these people? They are going to fall further behind, especially the children when it comes to education and opportunities for them to learn.

Everyone deserves a chance at a decent education, and that also means good health so decent food to eat too. There are NGOs who are trying to fill in the gaps, but really, with a government so rich, and 1 percent of the population outrageously wealthy, how can nothing be done for those who need help the most?

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