Universal pension scheme could help alleviate increasing elderly poverty in Hong Kong, according to an academic and an advocacy group. However, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has expressed reservations prior to a consultation that will start in December.
More than 430,000 elderly people in Hong Kong are living below the poverty line, according to Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. That’s an increase of 19 per cent between 2009 and 2014. She was speaking at the Commission on Poverty Summit on October 10.
She added that Hong Kong is “extremely fast-ageing” and to alleviating poverty would be “an uphill battle”.
Elderly poverty is a serious situation in which about three in ten old people live in poverty, says professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun.
But according to The Standard, on October 13, Ms Lam questioned the sustainability of a universal pension and the rationale in allocating public resources under the government’s welfare policy on October 13.
Nicholas Chan Hok-fung, organiser of Alliance for Universal Pension, said the issues of universal pension scheme and poverty among the elderly “have dragged on for long enough”.
“The government keeps avoiding the problem of elderly poverty,” he said.
“If you didn’t want to implement a universal pension scheme, why did you plan for a public consultation in the first place?” he said .
He suggested that it could be a “false consultation” because the government has “a preconceived stance”.
According to a 2013 Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report, the Proportion of elderly people in poverty has been “persistently higher” than the other age groups over the past five years.
The poverty line is defined as those earning less than half of the median monthly household income that means a one-person household earning less than $3,500 and a family of three earning less than $12,500 would be considered poor.
Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun, social work professor at the University of Hong Kong, said about three in ten elderly people live in poverty and it is a serious situation that calls for a universal pension scheme.
“Now, there are a little bit over one million people who are aged 65 or above. 280,000 of them rely on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance … and 430,000 are receiving Old Age Living Allowance.” he said.
“The goal of the scheme is to provide elderly people with a stable income,” he said. “It’s not to maintain all their daily expenses.”
He added that while a universal pension scheme would help to reduce elderly poverty, it might increase taxes in order to fund for the scheme.
Reporting: Crystal Tse
Writing: Jackson Ho
Video and photo: Joanna Wong