16 JAN 2013
Policy Address lacks concrete poverty alleviation goals, says Oxfam Poverty line and long-term pro-poor policies should be introduced without delay
The first Policy Address of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying aims to set up a governance blueprint for the HKSAR Government in the next five years. It should pledge to reduce the poor population and narrow the wealth gap. However, Oxfam is disappointed that the Policy Address fails to address the rich-poor divide and in-work poverty, and does not include any specific poverty alleviation goals.
Define poverty line
Oxfam is pleased that the Government plans to define the poverty line. But we urge that this should be done before the adjournment of the Legislative Council this year, (that is before July 2013). We suggest the Government to define poverty as an income at or less than 50% of the median income for households of corresponding size, and adapt the calculation method of the Census and Statistics Department to avoid slowing down the progress of poverty alleviation. Once the poverty line is determined, it is important to set specific poverty reduction targets and policies to ensure poor people could earn a basic income which is not less than the average CSSA payment.
Consider low-Income family subsidy
Oxfam is pleased that the Policy Address mentions the feasibility of introducing a subsidy for low-income families, and suggests that the Government should have implementation plans as soon as possible. In June last year, we released the report entitled “Feasibility Study of Low-Income Working Family Subsidy”, in which we suggested to enhance the current Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme (WITS) and transform it into a “Low-Income Working Family Subsidy”, allowing working poor families (especially those with children) to increase their income to CSSA level and, at the same time, encouraging them to work towards self-reliance.
Review minimum wage annually
Finally, Oxfam urges the Government to review the minimum wage every year to ensure that it is in line with inflation, so that workers can receive reasonable compensation for their work.
According to our latest report titled “Oxfam Hong Kong Poverty Report”, the wealth gap has been widened. The median monthly household income of the richest 10% is 26 times that of the poorest 10%; the population living in working poor households reached over 650,000 which accounts for half of the poor population; about 60% of the households of employed poor are living below CSSA level. This reveals that despite being employed, workers in Hong Kong still have trouble meeting their basic needs. We therefore urge the Government to address the disparity between rich and poor and formulate more concrete and long-term pro-poor policies as soon as possible.
Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in 1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 94 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.
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