Hong Kong poverty campaigners have called on ministers to expand the welfare system and introduce tax reforms after a survey revealed the vast majority of residents hold the government responsible for closing the city’s wealth gap.
Low-income Hongkongers reported they were less happy than their better off peers in the Anti Poverty Alliance poll, which found a quarter of respondents put themselves in the lowest category when asked to rank their social status.
Nearly 90 per cent agreed the government should fix wealth disparity in Hong Kong, as the alliance urged officials to boost the income of the city’s lowest earners through policies such as increasing the minimum wage.
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The survey of 1,342 people conducted between December and January asked respondents to self-grade their standing in society from one to five, with five the highest.
Of the quarter or so who categorised themselves in the lowest class, most of them earned less than HK$10,000 a month.
Close to 40 per cent of respondents, mostly earning between HK$10,000 and HK$30,000 a month, put themselves in the second class.
Nearly a third told the survey they were in the middle category, with 2.6 per cent in group four. Only 0.23 per cent said they enjoyed the highest social status, most of whom earned more than HK$50,000 a month.
On life satisfaction, the average rating among those in the lowest class was 4.61, compared with 7.17 for group four.
Among all respondents, close to 93 per cent agreed there was income disparity in Hong Kong, and 88.5 per cent said there was a gap in living conditions in Hong Kong.
Responsibility for tackling the wealth disparity sits with the government, according to 88.5 per cent of respondents, while 74.2 per cent say it rests on the shoulders of business.
The alliance spokesman Wong Kwok-kei suggested the government should narrow the wealth gap by offering more welfare support to poorer residents, boosting their income and making changes to the tax system.
“Providing more welfare means residents can access direct public services, like medical support. The government can boost their income by increasing the minimum wage. These steps can boost their satisfaction with life,” Wong said.
The minimum wage in Hong Kong is HK$37.5 per hour (US$4.8).
According to the Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report, released by the government in December and coinciding with a meeting held by the Commission on Poverty, more than 1.4 million people were living below the poverty line in Hong Kong in 2018, a 10-year high, with the government warning the weakened economy might have further repercussions on those earning less.
The figure was the second highest since records began in 2009, when the rate was 20.6 per cent. The government attributed the increase to an “acceleration of the population ageing”.
Past statistics showed 1.377 million residents were living below the official poverty line in 2017, 25,000 more than the figure in 2016.
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This article Hong Kong government told to expand welfare system as residents look to officials to close wealth gap first appeared on South China Morning Post