[G]overnment-appointed consultant Nelson Chow Wing-sun said he will bat for a universal pension to give retirees a more stable income in his report to be submitted to the government today.
“If the community misses this chance [for a universal pension], it will be hard to raise it again in future,” said Chow, chair professor of the University of Hong Kong’s social work and social administration department.
He said income taxes could be increased or higher regular contributions than the Mandatory Provident Fund could be made, which could lead to strong opposition from some sectors. ….
He reiterated that the pension is not to “subsidize the poor, but to ensure the retired can have stable income regardless of whether they are wealthy or poor.”
Earlier, Chow said the pension should not be less than the existing old age living allowance of HK$2,285 a month and that if it is accepted, it would replace both the “old age allowance” – that is HK$1,180 a month and non-means tested, [thus universal] and covers those aged 70 and over – and the [higher] “old age living allowance” that is means-tested and open to those over the age of 65.
In an interview with Sing Tao Daily, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said he hoped to release the report to the public.
But he admitted that it is “too early to decide” on the injection of funds by the government and implementation of the pension because “the community’s consensus over the contribution to the pension matters the most.” ….
Lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu- hung said he supported Chow’s proposal of having an old age pension because it can relieve the poverty problem among elderly, while the fruit money alone does not help maintain their livelihood.
He said not many apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance as “some elderly are afraid of the labeling effect if they rely on CSSA.”
Alliance for Universal Pension organizer Au Yeung Kwun-tung said the alliance agreed largely with Chow’s proposal but would like to know if the government will conduct a public consultation, or will just give a summary of the report.
Hilary Wong, “Now or never for pension scheme“, The Standard, 30 June 2014.
[Nelson] Chow, a social work specialist from the University of Hong Kong, said the key issue was whether the chosen plan could be funded – either by the government, employer and employee contributions, or through higher taxes.
“In the end, the Hong Kong people will have to decide whether they are willing to pay. If people are unwilling to pay, let’s not discuss this any more – let’s not waste our time; I don’t want to do these studies any more,” he told TVB’s On the Record yesterday.
He said a retirement protection scheme was not about getting the wealthy to subsidise the poor. “I don’t want to make calculations this way, but if you really want to calculate it, I just want to tell those making over HK$30,000 [US$3,870] a month that what you pay would not be subsidising the poor,” Chow said.
“In fact, I want to make this clear: this scheme would be to ensure that Hongkongers have a stable income when they reach the retirement age, no matter whether they are rich or poor.”
He added that the middle and upper classes would benefit most from the proposed universal scheme, in which all Hongkongers would be eligible for a flat-rate monthly pension from the age of 65.
Chow previously suggested those with assets over HK$10 million and civil servants on big pensions should not be eligible for the universal plan.
Lo Wei, “Crunch time for new pension plan“, South China Morning Post, 30 June 2014.
Professor Nelson Chow (South China Morning Post)