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SLW celebrates Senior Citizens' Day with over 1,000 elders

     The Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Senior Citizens' Day with over 1,000 elders this (November 16) afternoon.

     Speaking at two events to mark the special occasion, Mr Cheung said that elders are invaluable assets of our society, and that individuals, families, the community and the Government as a whole should join hands to face up to the challenges of an ageing population.

     "The Government cares for the welfare of our elders. We adhere to the four major principles in ensuring that our elders are given the best attention. These four principles are: promoting 'active ageing', 'aging at home', 'continuing care' and 'the allocation of resources to help elders with the greatest needs'," he said.

     Mr Cheung pointed out that the Government spent $31.7 billion on welfare and medical services as well as social security for elders last financial year. This accounted for 16 per cent of its recurrent expenditure.

     He said, "A social security net - the Comprehensive Social Security Allowance (CSSA) and the Old Age Allowance (OAA) - is in place for elders in need. Singleton elders on CSSA receive a monthly average of $3,600.

     "It is expected that the increased OAA rate of $1,000 will be disbursed before the Lunar New Year early next year to express our gratitude to some 470,000 OAA recipients. The increase will incur an additional annual expenditure of about $2 billion. This clearly demonstrates the Government's commitment to the wellbeing of our elderly.

     "It is indeed the Government's responsibility to provide timely assistance and services to elders in need. But, at the same time, we should consider carefully if the community could cope in the long term in face of an ageing population. We should  also ensure that our non-contributory social security and welfare system which is based on a simple tax regime is sustainable."

     Mr Cheung called on all sectors of the community to put their heads together on the way forward in this issue, and noted that the Government had in fact started a study on the sustainability of the three pillars of the economic security system for elders, namely: retirement saving, a social security net and voluntary pension schemes.

     Financial assistance aside, more than 200 elderly centres receive subvention from the Labour and Welfare Bureau to provide all sorts of activities and assistance to the elders. The Bureau and the Elderly Commission also launched the Elder Academy programme to promote lifelong learning and the Pilot Neighbourhood Active Ageing Project to set up neighbourhood supportive networks.

     The two events Mr Cheung attended this afternoon were a longevity banquet organised by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and the hair-cutting activity co-organised by the Federation of Trade Unions' district office and Towngas.

Ends/Sunday, November 16, 2008
Issued at HKT 15:31


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