Posts

Poverty in Hong Kong
Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded the streets of Hong Kong to voice discontent with their government. Sparked over a proposed extradition law that would allow the Chinese government to detain Hong Kong citizens in mainland China, the protests have brought a conversation about government, business and human rights to the forefront of international affairs. Hong Kong has long been a haven for big businesses and policies that allow huge gaps in the wealth of its citizens. In fact, this gap is the widest it has been in more than four decades. In the city that has the world’s third-largest concentration of people worth more than $30 million, over 20 percent of people fall below the poverty line. Poverty in Hong Kong has divided the nation.

Facts and Figures

  1. More than 1.3 million people are living in poverty in Hong Kong. These citizens are surviving on as little as the equivalent of $510 a month, which is very low in one of the world’s most expensive cities. These skyrocketing levels mark a seven-year high.
  2. Many of Hong Kong’s children (17.5 percent) live below the poverty line. More than one-third of children in low-income families can afford to eat two meals a day with meat or fish.
  3. For half the population, monthly rent is 70 percent of the median household income. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recently named Hong Kong the number one most expensive city to live in, along with Paris and Singapore.
  4. The government blames the problem on its aging population and Hong Kong’s improving economy. Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-Chung claims the government is doing its part, and that changing demographics are the reason for the rising numbers.

Government Involvement

Hong Kong’s economy has been steadily growing with a 1.3 percent growth in the first quarter of 2019. This is a good thing, but in the context of a booming economy, the alarming poverty in Hong Kong is concerning, notes Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung.

Something is not working. The government has adopted policies that tend to favor citizens with assets. The government taxes salary, but not capital gains and dividends. Around 50 percent of the population owns homes in a volatile housing market, which the administration’s pro-cyclical land mentality fuels. On top of that, there are strikingly low returns on the government’s social welfare, universal education and public health care policies.

Some people, such as local politics expert and South China Morning Post reporter Alice Wu, go as far as to say that officials are not only negligent about poverty in Hong Kong but deliberate with their often-harmful policies. On the streets of the city, “cardboard grannies” use old boxes as makeshift homes to survive. More than 80 percent of them are over 60 years old, and they are often subject to fines and punishment from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers. In July 2018, one woman received a find for the equivalent of $192 USD for littering. Some concerned citizens then decided to launch an online petition, and only then did authorities discard her fine, proving advocacy to be a key tool for correcting local injustices.

Humanitarian Aid

Outside of government intervention, many organizations are looking to help Hong Kong’s poor. One NGO, Crossroads Foundation, empowers local charities dedicated to ameliorating poverty by providing funding or equipment. These groups are diverse, ranging from organizations like Bring Me A Book, which gives impoverished children access to books, to the Salvation Army Hong Kong, which brings shelters or charity shops to those in need. Another nonprofit, Habitat for Humanity, found that citizens living in poverty often reside in hazardous conditions. In 2016, it set out to find safe housing for 15 million residents by 2020, giving hope to Hong Kong’s poor.

– Natalie Malek
Photo: Flickr


Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated and financially significant regions on Earth, but it also has a massive issue with income inequality. Roughly one-fifth of Hong Kong’s residents are living in poverty as of November 2018, with monthly income for those people falling below the poverty line equaling $700 a month. The average cost of living for a 900 square foot apartment plus utilities in a normal area for two equals $3,885 a month. In the text below, the top 10 facts about poverty in Hong Kong are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Hong Kong

  1. The population is aging. With 7.4 million residents, Hong Kong is home to many people of older generations. The combination of changing technologies and markets has impacted those who served in more blue-collar jobs in years past. This has a dramatic effect on how they are able to pay for housing, food and basic necessities when white collar jobs are taking over the city. The government has provided handouts that have helped many in poverty, but what truly needs to be done is proper job reeducation and reassignment.
  2. Cohabitating with elderly parents is becoming necessary. As many young adults seek to explore their career paths and the vast megalopolis of the Pearl River Delta, they realize they don’t have the means to expand. In order to keep parents from falling below the poverty line and to give their future children exceptional opportunities, many young couples are forced to stay with their parents. However, this is only a temporary solution to the long-term issue of how to deal with economic struggles. Thankfully, the local and national governments are considering how to reengage the elderly through the use of their accumulated knowledge.
  3. Monthly rent is 70 percent of the median household income for half of Hong Kong. With the average monthly income of those below the poverty line not reaching the 70 percent statistic to pay for livable housing, a dark housing market has appeared. Illegal housing has entered roughly one in four structures in Hong Kong. In order to combat the rise of illegal housing and unlivable structures, the government of China must provide affordable and government subsidized housing rather than solely catering to the wealthy.
  4. Wages have not risen to meet the rise in housing cost. The average unskilled worker has to work 12-hours per day to afford a 100 square foot coffin home. In order to meet the needs of its citizens, Hong Kong must increase welfare payments in the form of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). CSSA must become more than just a safety net for basic needs and should fully encompass the needs of those in poverty in Hong Kong through food assistance and other means.
  5. Women are disproportionately affected by poverty. China has historically undervalued women. The one-child policy preferred boys and illegal sex-selective abortions were utilized. Hong Kong’s 2017 census stated that roughly 451,700 women fell below the poverty line, where only 80,800 men did. In order to fully engage society and bring skilled workers into the workforce, education and protections must be put in place for women and young girls.
  6. The poor are unfairly stigmatized. Those in poverty in Hong Kong are seen as being lazy for the position they’ve fallen into. This attitude speaks to a larger ambivalent attitude towards meaning and wealth in Hong Kong, as status and titles have unfortunately taken over humility and humanity. In order to combat this harsh attitude, people of Hong Kong must embrace the people in their society that make them uncomfortable.
  7. Cyber cafes have become havens for the poor. Hong Kongers who fall below the poverty line and cannot afford to house have taken to spending their days and nights at cyber cafes. For a low cost of entry, cyber cafes provide shelter and internet access between jobs for the poor.
  8. Hong Kong’s bureaucracy is one of the causes of the problem. The issues the homeless face could be solved, but government division has slowed progress. Separate departments cover similar issues but have no central governing body. Experts suggest that examples from New York’s consolidated Department of Homeless Services should be followed.
  9. Nongovernmental organizations could help Hong Kong. Government leasing of properties occurs in Hong Kong but leasing from nongovernmental organizations could greatly assist those in need. Government support of organizations who control these properties would allow for the poor and homeless to be taken care of effectively by trained professionals.
  10. The wealth distribution is uneven. The top 10 percent in Hong Kong earn roughly 44 times more than the lowest 10 percent who fall far below the top monthly earnings. This income divide is further pushed by wealthy business interests who influence politicians. This directly damages the ability of the poor and homeless to receive any assistance.

While poverty is a massive issue in Hong Kong, individuals and governing bodies can no longer turn a blind eye. For the sake of those in need, the country and its politicians must take notice of the damaged parts of their society, as it is shown in these top 10 facts about poverty in Hong Kong.

– Zach Margolis

Photo: Flickr

poverty in hong kong
According to a study conducted by Professor Maggie Lau of the City University of Hong Kong in the Department of Public Policy research shows that poverty in Hong Kong is vast.

Dr. Lau’s study aims to focus on various socio-economic groups in order to understand how poverty affects these different groups. The groups include lone parents, couples with children, those without children, single adults and the elderly. The research conducted on these different demographics serves to specify which groups in particular are facing the highest levels of poverty.

Recently, Hong Kong fell in the rankings for being a “livable city” due to the high cost of living and large population. With a widening inequality gap, the wealthier are accruing more while the poor are falling more deeply into poverty. Aid in the form of government services is relatively nonexistent.

“Some of the poor are moving from temporary poverty to chronic poverty and intergenerational poverty,” according to Liu Yuanchun, director of the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China.

Chronic poverty is linked to structural poverty meaning that they do not benefit from economic growth. This type of poverty is described as “chronic” because the affected populations are entrenched in poverty for the majority of their lives.

“This means that understanding the manifestations, attributes and social dynamics of chronic poverty to develop additional national and international interventions is crucial.” The underlying cultural and social context of poverty in Hong Kong must be understood in order to develop policies that are effective.

Poverty is becoming institutionalized in the city center where social services and government intervention is lacking. About one out of seven million of the inhabitants of Hong Kong are living in poverty.

The dynamic and rich culture that Hong Kong attracts money and professionals from all over the world. However, it’s falling in terms of its livability standards there are other city centers that offer many of the same features flike Singapore and Tokyo.

The prices of property were raised to astronomical levels in 2003 when the price of housing went up over 300 percent. Although small government in business is a popular staple of life in Hong Kong, government intervention needs to be more urgent or people will begin moving to other places to do business.

– Maxine Gordon

Sources: Poverty and Social Exclusion in Hong Kong, China Daily 1, China Daily 2, Market Watch, Chronic Poverty Research Center
Photo: Daily Mail UK

Poverty in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a city of contrasts. A massive financial center on a small island with a mountainous terrain, it is the home of some of the world’s poorest and richest people.

Hong Kong simultaneously has the world’s ninth largest trading economy, with a GDP of US $261 billion, and the highest income gap between the rich and poor of any developed country.

Currently one in five people live in poverty in Hong Kong, over a thousand of whom are homeless. Meanwhile, its booming economy has led to a government surplus of HK $40 billion (about $US 5.1 billion) and a government fiscal surplus of HK $1.5 trillion (about $US 193 billion). Despite its capacity to take action, government efforts to alleviate poverty have been modest.

In 2013, Hong Kong set its first official poverty line, but since then few measures have been enacted to combat the problem.  In 2011, Hong Kong implemented a minimum wage of HK $28 an hour (about US $4) that has recently increased to HK $30 an hour.

At this point other proposals have not been implemented. However, some scholars and organizations hope that the government will introduce programs, such as an income-supplement for Hong Kong’s working poor that will not face much political opposition.

Additionally, Oxfam Hong Kong has recommended additional subsidies for families in poverty with at least one full time member and at least one non-working dependent child. Neither proposal has been officially supported.

The Commission on Poverty is taking a key step to raise awareness. It has funded a HK$5 million campaign, called Bless Hong Kong to tackle poverty through community activities to promote social mobility.

Bless Hong Kong plans to offer disenfranchised youth pre-employment training and internship opportunities through its participating organizations.

Organizations like these show a strong desire from the people of Hong Kong to tackle poverty and opportunity inequality for their most vulnerable but the government still lags behind. A continued insistance on the part of its people and organizations such as Oxfam and Bless Hong Kong will hopefully shift the tide and help eradicate poverty in this great city.

– Martin Levy

Sources: South China Morning Post, Feeding Hong Kong, South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post
Photo: Daily Mail