More anti-poverty measures are necessary as the number of Hong Kong people below the poverty line continues to increase, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr. Law Chi-kwong said.
The existing measures to ease poverty have not produced the desired results as the number of people who benefit is relatively few, Law told a TV program on Sunday.
The government considers it necessary to do more to help lift more people out of poverty, he said.
The government’s Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report 2016 released on Friday shows the number of Hong Kong people living in poverty hit a record high of 1.35 million in 2016, with the poverty rate of those aged 65 or above at 44.8 percent, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
While the rate went down to 31.6 percent after taking into account recurrent cash assistance such as the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and the Old Age Living Allowance, the number of poor senior people (337,000) was still higher than the 301,000 seen in 2015.
In the report, the government said it is preparing to add a higher tier of assistance, called Higher Old Age Living Allowance (HOALA), which will offer HK$3,435 monthly for eligible elderly persons, or about one-third more than the existing amount.
The asset limits for elderly singles and elderly couples receiving HOALA, which is set to be launched next year, are HK$144,000 and HK$218,000, respectively.
However, Law said HOALA would only lower the elderly poverty population by 1 or 2 percent and the allowances may not be enough to completely meet basic living needs.
He urged senior citizens who are in desperate financial need to apply for the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance.
For seniors who are deemed high-asset owners but lack stable income, Law urged them to join the public annuity scheme set to be launched by the middle of next year by making a lump-sum premium payment. They will receive immediate lifetime annuity payouts on a monthly basis.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said in a blog post the calculation of the poverty line excludes assets and that’s why six in 10 poor seniors were found to live in their own homes without mortgage last year, an eight-year high.
Meanwhile, about 300 people from multiple political parties and groups, including the Alliance for Universal Pension, marched to Government House in Central demanding universal retirement protection. Sunday was Senior Citizens Day which falls on the third Sunday of November each year.
A spokesperson for the alliance said the government’s current financial assistance system is not effective, adding that only a universal retirement protection scheme can make sure seniors live with dignity and peace of mind.
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