Poverty line doesn't give the full picture: Chris Sun - RTHK
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Poverty line doesn't give the full picture: Chris Sun

2023-01-14 HKT 14:13
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  • Poverty line doesn't give the full picture: Chris Sun
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun on Saturday said the government's official poverty line does not give a full picture of the situation, and that factors such as a person's assets should be taken into account.

Since 2013, the official measure of poverty has been defined as living in a household with a monthly income that falls below 50 percent of the median.

But the minister told an RTHK programme that the poverty measure is "flawed" because it concentrates only on income.

"When assessing the poverty situation, it is equally important to consider the income and assets when it comes to Hong Kong," he said.

"For example, when you are measuring your body condition, you only measure your blood pressure, but not glycemic index or other indices; you can't rely on just one index to make a judgment."

Census and Statistics Department figures show show that nearly one in four Hongkongers, or around 1.6 million people, were facing poverty in 2020 before taking into account government support.

After factoring in government intervention, including social welfare payments, one-off relief measures and means-tested benefits such as public rental housing, the poverty rate stood at 7.9 percent, or around 550,000 people.

Meanwhile Sun said the government's decision last week to increase the minimum wage from HK$37.5 to HK$40 is certainly good for the working class. The increase takes effect on May 1, ending a four-year freeze.

He also rejected criticism from an NGO, which had argued that a full-time worker earning the minimum wage would, on average, take home less than the average amount paid out in government welfare under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme.

"After all, do people like to go to work or not? In fact, going to work is not just for earning money. It is important to one's spirit and health," the minister said.

"Many people will tell you they would rather work than receive social welfare because they think it has more value in their lives, and they can contribute more. So the two can't be compared. One is welfare, the other is work."

The minister said the new hourly rate would mean the minimum wage had increased by 42 percent since it was first introduced in 2011, which he said had beaten inflation over the same period.

Poverty line doesn't give the full picture: Chris Sun