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Govt to set official poverty line

New administration hopes measure will help address wealth gap

The new measure of poverty is expected to help the new administration better assess poverty The new measure of poverty is expected to help the new administration better assess poverty
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • September 28, 2012
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A task force on poverty yesterday said it would follow standards set by the European Union in devising Hong Kong’s first official measure of poverty in a bid to tackle what critics say is a growing wealth gap.

Christine Fang Man-Shan, a task force member and chief executive of the Council of Social Service, an umbrella organization for NGOs, told reporters Hong Kong’s first poverty line would better define economic status and help the new administration to tackle the gap between rich and poor.

Ho Hei-wah, another member of the taskforce, said “the poverty line will not label the recipients but help to find out where they are.”

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who took office in July, announced the initiative on Wednesday following growing disquiet over rising wealth inequality made worse by some of the highest property prices in the world.

Last week, the local diocese published an open letter to Leung calling on his new administration to take action to redistribute wealth.

The Gini co-efficient, a measure of the gap between rich and poor, reached its highest level in a decade last year, according to the latest figures published in June.

Law Pui-shan, a project officer at the Catholic diocese’s Commission for Labor Affairs, welcomed the announcement, noting that “it is the first step to measure and formulate policies to alleviate poverty.”

In the past, the government has used data on benefits claims as a rough measure of how many poor people there were in Hong Kong, but critics say there are many who fail to claim, often because they do not know that they can.

The Council of Social Service had typically calculated a figure based on half of the median monthly family income.

In the period May-July, this was HK$20,000 (US$2,657) per household per month, which would put the Council of Social Service’s version of the poverty line at HK$10,000 or about $1,329 per family every month.

According to figures for the same period, there were 540,000 households in Hong Kong with income lower than this benchmark, just under a quarter of all families in the territory.

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