official poverty in Hong Kong

Hong Kong now has an official measure of poverty. Though the territory is not a member of the OECD, its government has followed OECD standards so that poverty counts in Hong Kong can be compared to those of OECD countries. The poverty line is set at half of median household income; household assets and debts are not counted.

Hong Kong – one of the wealthiest places in the world – has acknowledged for the first time that it has a sizeable poverty problem by declaring that 1.31 million of its citizens are officially poor.

The number of people who fall below the new government-set poverty line falls to 1.01 million after welfare payments such as Comprehensive Social Security Assistance [CSSA] are factored in. ….

[Chief executive Leung Chun-ying] revealed for the first time that:

О 19.6 per cent of the city’s population can now be classified as poor, or 15.2 per cent if regular cash welfare payments are included;

О More than half of those who fall under the poverty line have one or more full-time worker in their households;

О One in three elderly people – approximately 296,600 – are poor;

О One in five children – 208,800 youngsters – are poor; and

О 235,600 people on CSSA welfare still fall below the poverty line.

A one-person household with less than HK$3,600 [US$464] per month will be considered poor, under 2012 statistics. For two-person households, the amount is HK$7,700 [US$992] and HK$14,300 [US$1843] for four-person households.

Jennifer Ngo, “1.3 million Hongkongers live in poverty, government says, but offers no solution“, South China Morning Post, 29 September 2013.

Poverty rates are particularly high for the elderly (33%), many of whom have to work past 70 and 80 years of age, and subsist on tiny incomes, yet the government has decided to target the working poor and families with children rather than eliminate elder poverty by providing all seniors a basic pension of three or four thousand Hong Kong dollars a month. Taxes are low in Hong Kong, and the government budget is continuously in surplus. Hong Kong can afford to eliminate poverty at all ages. All that is missing is political will.

I was surprised to see a poverty line for a two-person household more than double that for a person living alone. Normally, living expenses are lower if two people share accommodation.  This might be a misprint. If so, the source no doubt is the government’s press release, as other newspapers report the same figures.

Thanks to Nicholas Chan for the pointer.

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