Date
27 May 2017
Hong Kong needs to address the issue of poor working families as wealth gap continues to rise in the city. Photo: Bloomberg
Hong Kong needs to address the issue of poor working families as wealth gap continues to rise in the city. Photo: Bloomberg

HK ‘working poor families’ number up over 10% since 2010: Oxfam

A new study by a non-government organization has suggested that the wealth gap in Hong Kong has widened further since 2010.

According to a report released Tuesday by Oxfam Hong Kong, the number of working poor families in the city has risen more than 10 percent to nearly 190,000 in 2014 from 171,000 in 2010, translating to a poor population of 640,000, Ming Pao Daily reported. 

Working poor families are defined as households that have at least one employed person and have a monthly household income that is less than half the local median income.

According to the study, while 53.6 percent of such families’ monthly income makes them qualified for the government’s Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, only 7.5 percent of them have applied for it.

It also found that each member of the working poor families has to support 1.9 others in their families.

Pointing out that the richest 10 percent of Hong Kong families earn an average income 19 times that of the poorest 10 percent of local families, Wong Shek-hung, an Oxfam program manager, said one of the policies that the government should initiate to help this segment of society is to abolish the MPF offsetting mechanism.

Scrapping the offsetting mechanism, which allows firms to use their MPF contributions to offset a portion of the severance or long-service payment that is owed to employees, can help prevent workers from falling into poverty and being forced to rely on the CSSA after retiring, Wong said.

In addition, the minimum wage should be reviewed annually rather than the current practice of every other year, the activist said.

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TL/AC/RC

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