Date
17 August 2017
The pension fund should be given to every elderly and having a means test will not help the government to save much money, says the author of the study. Photo: HKEJ
The pension fund should be given to every elderly and having a means test will not help the government to save much money, says the author of the study. Photo: HKEJ

Should pension plan be universal or only for those in need?

A government-commissioned study released on Wednesday proposes to grant all Hong Kong people aged over 65 a pension of HK$3,000 (US$387.06) a month, but Ming Pao Daily and Sing Tao Daily said in separate editorials that the fund should be given only to those in need.

Society has reached a consensus that resources are limited and aid should be given to those who need it most. A mechanism should therefore be established to direct the old-age pension to those in need so that the benefits could be brought into full play, Ming Pao said in its editorial on Thursday.

But the newspaper also voiced concern about adopting a means test to find out who are truly in need of the cash assistance. It said if those who own a certain amount of assets are barred from the pension plan, then it will become just another anti-poverty project and not a universal pension scheme.

Some residents may also have lower incentives to pay for the fund as a means test will show that not all of them are entitled to the benefit, the newspaper said.

Sing Tao Daily said the pension scheme involves a considerable budget, and the government can limit the amount needed by zeroing in on those who are more in need of the pension. It did not elaborate on how this should be achieved.

University of Hong Kong academic Nelson Chow Wing-sun, who conducted the study on universal pension scheme, said the fund should be given to every elderly, adding that having a means test will not help the government to save much money, RTHK reported.

If there is a relaxed means test, only 10 to 20 percent of the seniors will not be eligible for the pension. That makes only a small difference, Chow said.

He also said it is an insult to the elderly to say the pension will make them lazy.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who chairs the Commission on Poverty, said the government has not made a final decision on whether the pension scheme should cover all the elderly or not, and urged the people to consider it as a policy issue, Wen Wei Po reported.

“We should think about whether we are to give the same amount of money to every senior, rich and poor alike, or to target those with real needs through a certain level of means test under the circumstance of limited resourcs,” Lam said.

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JH/JP/CG

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