Oxfam wants the government to step up its efforts to fight poverty after a study showed the number of poor Hong Kong households is on the rise, along with the wealth gap.
The world anti-poverty group said Hong Kong had 462,000 poor households in 2015, up 6 percent from 2011, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
More than 1.15 million people live in poverty, with the poverty rate increasing to 18.7 percent in 2015 from 18.5 percent in 2011, according to the study.
The rate in 2014 was also 18.7 percent.
The rate has remained between 18.5 and 18.7 percent over the period, suggesting government efforts to fight poverty have stagnated.
The study also found that the wealth gap in Hong Kong is worse than in other developed countries and regions.
The richest 10 percent of Hong Kong families earned an average monthly income of HK$100,000 (US$12,900) in 2015, 28 times that of the poorest 10 percent.
That is up from 26.7 times in 2011 and means the poor have to work 2.4 years without spending in order to make the same amount of money as the rich.
Also, the number of poor working families — defined as households that have at least one employed person and have a monthly household income less than half the median — was 182,000 in 2015, up 44 percent in the past five years.
That translates to 622,000 people.
The Minimum Wage Commission has proposed a raise in the statutory minimum wage to HK$34.50 per hour from 2017 but Wong Shek-hung, Oxfam Hong Kong program manager, said that is still lower than the allowance from the government’s Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme.
He said HK$35 an hour is more reasonable.
Oxfam urged the government to use part of its HK$1.38 trillion (US$178 billion) reserve, nearly the equivalent of the collective wealth of the richest 18 people, to strengthen poverty relief efforts.
It recommended several measures including the scrapping of the Mandatory Provident Fund offsetting mechanism which allows employers to settle severance and long-service payments using employees’ savings in the fund.
Also, it wants the government to improve the CSSA scheme, simplify procedures for low-income working families to apply for allowances and review the minimum wage annually to ensure that it is adjusted to keep up with inflation and stay above the CSSA payment level.
The Commission on Poverty will release a detailed analysis of last year’s poverty situation on Saturday.
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