A survey has found that almost 90 percent of Hong Kong people support a universal pension scheme. Polytechnic University interviewed a thousand people last month for the study, on behalf of the Alliance for Universal Pension. ….
The alliance wants a universal pension of HK$3,000 [US$385] a month, for everyone over 65. The [new] Chief Executive, C Y Leung, proposed in his election platform a special old-age allowance of HK$2,200 a month.
But the survey found that more than seven out of 10 people are opposed to any kind of means test for this allowance. The group’s programme organiser, Nick Chan, says there shouldn’t be any screening for a universal pension scheme.
Lee Kim-ming, “Support for universal pension scheme“, RTHK English News, 3 July 2012.
Lee Kim-ming is a consultant for the Alliance for Universal Pension, which focuses on a single issue, on behalf of more than 80 Hong Kong NGOs.
For reference, Hong Kong’s minimum wage is HK$28 (US$3.60) an hour and the territory’s per capita GDP is HK$281,000 (US$36,200). The proposed HK$3000 pension is modest, equal to approximately 60% of the minimum wage, or 12.8% of per capita GDP.
On 16 July Mr Leung announced, as expected, a doubling of the old age allowance from HK$1090 (US$140) to HK$2,200 (US$283) a month.
The current old age allowance, known as ‘fruit money’ because of its small size, is universal from age 70 but subject to a test of family income and assets for those aged 65-69. Leung’s enhanced allowance, which commences in October, subjects everyone from age 65 to a means test. Those unable to pass the test, or unwilling to subject themselves to the humiliation of a test, are eligible for a smaller allowance of HK$1090, but only from age 70.
The finding of widespread support for a universal pension is good news, but support cannot possibly be so high as claimed. A universal pension is one provided to everyone of eligible age, subject only to a test of residence. If 90% of those surveyed claim to support a universal pension, then the same number should oppose means tests. Since only 70% of respondents oppose means tests, support for a universal pension must be 70%, not 90%. Twenty percent of respondents apparently did not understand that universal pensions are given to everyone, regardless of income or wealth.