Date
12 December 2017
One in five people in Hong Kong lives below the poverty line, the latest official figures show. Photo: Reuters
One in five people in Hong Kong lives below the poverty line, the latest official figures show. Photo: Reuters

Poverty in Hong Kong hits record high

The number of Hong Kong people living in poverty continued to rise, hitting a record high last year. One in five people lives below the poverty line, the latest official figures revealed on Friday.

The government reported that Hong Kong’s poverty rate reached 19.9 percent in 2016, meaning there were 1.35 million people living below the poverty line, up about 7,000 people from 2015.

The city’s poverty line is drawn at half the median monthly household income according to household size. For 2016, it was HK$4,000 (US$512) for one person, HK$9,000 for a two-person household and HK$15,000 for a three-person household.

Hong Kong only began measuring poverty among its residents in 2009, and last year’s figures were the highest in terms of absolute numbers.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the aging population and the smaller family size have “constantly pushed up the poverty rate and population”.

“The slight increase in the overall poverty figures in 2016 did not mean that the government’s poverty alleviation work was less effective,” he said in a government press release.

After taking the government’s cash interventions into account, such as the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and the Old Age Living Allowance, the number of impoverished Hongkongers fell to 996,000, down 25,000 from 2015. This brought the poverty rate for 2016 to 14.7 percent, down from an overall rate of 19.9 percent.

Sham Shui Po in Kowloon remained the poorest district with 24.6 percent of residents falling below the poverty line.

This was followed by Kwun Tong – 24.3 percent – and Kwai Tsing, with a poverty rate of 24.1 percent.

“In view of rapid population aging under which the number of retired elderly persons will continue to increase, coupled with the fact that the poverty line only takes into account income but not assets, there would be little room for significant improvement in the poverty figures,” the government said.

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