24 MAY 2013
Prompt implementation of Low Income Family Subsidy will help mend the social safety net, says Oxfam
The Commission on Poverty had a discussion on the Low Income Family Subsidy today. Responding to media enquiries, Oxfam welcomes the discussion but urges that the government takes immediate steps to study and implement the scheme to help working poor families relieve the burden of raising children.
In the free market, low income workers work hard all their lives but still struggle to make a living. With the implementation of the statutory minimum wage, their income has increased to a certain extent, but since the primary purpose of the minimum wage was only to ensure a fair wage for low income workers, it did not take into consideration their need to support the families as a whole. Therefore, the problem of working poverty has not been adequately addressed.
The latest Oxfam report on trends among the working poor reveals that the wealth gap in Hong Kong has continued to expand over the last ten years. In the fourth quarter of 2012, the median monthly income of the richest 10% of households is 26.3 times that of the poorest 10%; over 170,000 working households, or close to 600,000 people, were living in poverty, accounting for over half of the poor population. Many working poor households with dependent children are having a hard time making ends meet, but because of the negative labelling of CSSA recipients, most of them are unwilling to apply for the allowance. More than half of these families had a monthly income lower than the CSSA level, revealing the inadequacies of current social welfare policies.
"We believe the government has the responsibility to design targeted poverty alleviation measures that protect the basic living standards of working poor families. Hence, we urge the government to implement the Low Income Family Subsidy as soon as possible so that working poor families with children can maintain a basic standard of living without having to apply for CSSA," said Stephen Fisher, Director General of Oxfam Hong Kong.
The targeted recipients of this subsidy are households with at least one full-time working member and at least one non-working dependent child aged under 18, with a monthly income at or below the poverty line, that is, 50 per cent of the median household income. To simplify the application procedure, an asset test should be waived.
Oxfam suggests that every eligible child can receive a subsidy of HK$800. The agency’s initial recommendation is that the first two children will receive HK$800 each; the amount for the third and subsequent children will then be adjusted according to the decreasing additional costs they bring to the household. According to the above recommendations, about 180,000 poor children aged under 18 are estimated to benefit from the subsidy.
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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Wong Shek Hung
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