Thursday, 14 December 2017

25% Hongkongers Can't Afford Basic Needs

One-quarter of Hongkongers are considered deprived of basic necessities
The Hong Kong government acknowledges there are poor people in Hong Kong, but it's the number that it can't seem to decide on because it can't determine the exact definition of poverty.

It prefers to just look at income levels, but critics say this is not enough, as some people may own flats, but have no income and have run out of savings, or they barely make enough to make ends meet and live in squalid conditions. Some don't want to bother reaching out for social services or they don't qualify for certain subsidies.

Chinese University researchers have come up with another way to determine if someone is poor by seeing if they can afford 23 essential items or services. These include three meals a day, a dental check-up once a year, afford new clothes or go out with family or friends once a month.

Researchers say poverty should be calculated by deprivation
If they were not able to afford at least two or more of these items they were considered deprived.

They interviewed 1,476 people in 2014 and the same participants again last year. They found that one in four of them were deprived last year, 24.7 percent, which compares to 28.8 percent in 2014.

Researchers say the city's economic growth, historically low unemployment ration and higher salaries attributed to fewer deprived people, but it doesn't mean poverty has been eliminated at all.

Of those who took part in the study, 26.7 percent were unable to afford to get a regular dental check-up, though it was down from 38.7 percent three years earlier.

The study also showed that those who were defined as deprived were 1.5 times more likely to be less physically healthy, and 1.3 times more likely to be less mentally healthy compared to those who could afford all 23 items and services.

Chinese University associate professor Wong Hung who conducted the study said the research showed the government's official definition of poverty underestimated those who were socially disadvantaged in Hong Kong.

Handouts don't solve the poverty issue, researchers say
The government makes its calculations based solely on income and household size, and so the poverty line is at half the median monthly household income according to household size. Those who live below the poverty line are considered poor.

With that calculation, one in five people were living below the poverty line last year, a record high.

Wong said, "Handing out money or cash vouchers to people might not necessarily solve the city's deprivation problem. The government should implement more specific community programs so people can directly benefit from them."

This is not a new suggestion and the government doesn't really do anything, instead depending on NGOs and charities to fill the need.

Wong and his colleagues are suggesting to the government that it include deprivation as part of its determination of who is in poverty or not. It would probably increase the numbers which the authorities wouldn't be happy about, but these people are in desperate need of services and resources to keep their heads above water.

With Hong Kong being such a wealthy city, there is no excuse not to help the neediest.

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