LCQ18: Social Security Assistance Index of Prices

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-che and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (March 2):


     The Social Security Assistance Index of Prices (SSAIP) is compiled monthly by the Census and Statistics Department on the basis of the expenditure pattern of households receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) and the prices of the items of goods and services covered by the CSSA standard rates, and recommendations on the adjustment of CSSA standard rates are made annually by the Social Welfare Department with reference to the price movements of SSAIP. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) what criteria the authorities adopted in the past 10 years for selecting the items of goods and services covered by SSAIP, which affected the adjustment of CSSA standard rates, and the respective weights of such items in SSAIP;

(b) of the changes in the prices of the various items of goods and services covered by SSAIP in the past 10 years; and

(c) whether a mechanism is currently in place to review the component items of SSAIP; if yes, of the details; if not, how the authorities ensure that corresponding adjustments are made to SSAIP in accordance with changes in the needs of the grassroots' daily lives?



(a) and (c) The Social Security Assistance Index of Prices (SSAIP) is compiled by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) on a monthly basis. It reflects the impact of price changes on the recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). Except items which are covered by CSSA special grants (eg rent) or public services provided free to CSSA recipients (eg medical services), items covered by the SSAIP are the same as those covered by other Consumer Price Indices compiled also by C&SD.  As such, the former would be adjusted only when there are changes to the latter.

     That said, to maintain the purchasing power of CSSA payments, the expenditure weight of individual categories of goods and services covered by the SSAIP is updated every five years with reference to the findings of the Household Expenditure Survey (HES) on CSSA Households.  This survey, targeting CSSA households, covers all domestic households with at least one member receiving the CSSA standard rate. It collects information on the expenditure of CSSA households on the commodities and services they consume; therefore is able to accurately reflect the expenditure pattern of CSSA households. The Social Welfare Department (SWD) is conducting the 2009-10 round of the HES on CSSA Households in collaboration with C&SD, and has completed the data collection work. Report preparation and the work for updating the expenditure weights of the SSAIP will take place between March and October this year.

     The Administration reviews the standard payment rates under the CSSA Scheme and the rates of Social Security Allowance on an annual basis taking into account changes in the 12-month moving average of the SSAIP up to the end of October. The proposed adjustment will then be submitted to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council for approval in December to take effect from the following February. In accordance with the above mechanism, SWD increased the payment rates concerned by 3.4% in February this year.

     The 1999/2000-based and 2004/05-based expenditure weights of the SSAIP are at Annex 1.

(b) The rate of change of the price index of goods and services categories covered by the SSAIP in the past ten years is at Annex 2.

Ends/Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Issued at HKT 11:31