LCQ10: CSSA disregarded earnings

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Sing-chi and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung, in the Legislative Council today (November 4):


     Regarding the arrangements for disregarded earnings ("DE") under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance ("CSSA") Scheme, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of CSSA recipients benefiting from monthly DE arrangement and their average amounts of monthly DE in the whole of last year and in the period from January to September this year;

(b) of the respective numbers of CSSA recipients with a monthly earning of $800 or below, $801 to $4,200 and over $4,200 in the past five years;

(c) whether it will collect statistics on the number of CSSA cases in which recipients had benefited from DE and subsequently left the CSSA net; if it will, when the annual numbers of such cases in the past five years can be provided; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) given that the authorities stated in its reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council on January 16 last year that "we will review the DE arrangement again after this new arrangement has been in operation for a period of time", whether they have set a specific timetable for such a review; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme is designed to provide financial support to families in need to meet their basic needs.  There is a Support for Self-reliance (SFS) Scheme under the CSSA Scheme to assist CSSA able-bodied recipients aged between 15 and 59, who are unemployed or whose monthly working hours or earnings are less than those prescribed by the Social Welfare Department (SWD), in securing full-time paid employment and moving towards self-reliance.

     The Disregarded Earnings (DE) arrangement (the arrangement) is part of the SFS Scheme.  It aims at encouraging the above CSSA recipients who have the ability to work to find jobs and remain in employment.  Under this arrangement, a portion of the CSSA recipient's monthly earnings from employment will not be deducted from his CSSA entitlement.  The maximum level of the monthly DE is $2,500 at present.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows -

(a) As at the end of December 2008, a total of 36 615 CSSA recipients benefited from the monthly DE arrangement.  Their average monthly DE was $1,816.  The corresponding figures in September 2009 were 36 481 recipients and $1,784.

(b) The respective numbers of CSSA recipients with monthly earnings of $800 or below, $801 to $4,200 and over $4,200 in the past five years are set out in the table below -

Year Number of CSSA recipients (Year-end figure)
     $800 or below  $801 to $4,200  Over $4,200
     -------------  --------------  -----------
2004    4 750        15 991          14 721
2005    4 896        17 075          16 536
2006    5 262        18 473          16 888
2007    5 331        18 266          16 416
2008*   5 012        17 202          14 707

* Some of the CSSA recipients are not included in the beneficiaries in part (a) of this reply because they had been on CSSA for less than two months, hence not yet eligible for DE.

(c) SWD does not keep statistics on the number of CSSA cases having benefited from DE and subsequently left the CSSA net.  However, many of the CSSA recipients in the SFS Scheme have secured paid jobs and benefited from the arrangement.  In the past five years, altogether 16 223 recipients had successfully left the CSSA net.

(d) Since December 2007, we have relaxed the eligibility criterion for DE from being on CSSA for not less than three months to two months, and have raised the no-deduction limit of the monthly DE from the first $600 to the first $800 of income.  The Administration needs time to observe the effectiveness of these measures and will conduct a review on the arrangement at an appropriate time.

Ends/Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:38