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CE chairs first Commission on Poverty Summit (with photos)
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     The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, today (September 28) chaired the first Commission on Poverty (CoP) Summit. He was briefed on the work progress of the CoP and its Task Forces in the past 10 months, including the setting of a poverty line and analysis results on the poverty situation, and exchanged views with participants on future directions and strategies for poverty alleviation efforts.

     More than 500 guests were invited to attend the Summit. In addition to members of the CoP and its six Task Forces, the Summit attracted representatives from political, business and academic sectors, think tanks, non-governmental organisations, and organisations and bodies of various service groups. Principal Officials also took part in the Summit.

     The first half of the Summit mainly reviewed the details of the poverty line and the analysis of the poverty situation in 2012. Launching ceremonies for projects under three Task Forces were also held. The second half was the discussion session, in which the Chief Executive exchanged ideas with participants on poverty alleviation strategies and work priorities.

     Setting a poverty line has been one of the priorities of the CoP. The CoP held a number of meetings since December last year to discuss how to set the poverty line, and completed the task within 10 months. Having regard to three major functions of the poverty line (i.e. to understand the poverty situation, facilitate policy formulation and assess policy effectiveness) and five guiding principles (i.e. measurability, international comparability, data availability, cost-effectiveness and compilation and interpretation), the CoP eventually agreed to adopt the concept of relative poverty and set the poverty line at 50 per cent of the median monthly household income before tax and welfare transfers (i.e. pre-government intervention).

     The poverty line for 2012 in accordance with household size is as follows:

One-person households                       $3,600
Two-person households                       $7,700
Three-person households                    $11,500
Four-person households                     $14,300
Five-person households                     $14,800
Households with six persons or more        $15,800

     The analysis of the poverty situation in Hong Kong in 2012 showed that before policy intervention, there were 541 000 poor households, involving 1 312 000 persons, and the poverty rate was 19.6 per cent. Various policy interventions such as Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), the Old Age Allowance and financial assistance for students can effectively alleviate poverty, bringing down the number of households in poverty to 403 000 and involving 1 018 000 persons, resulting in a poverty rate of 15.2 per cent. The detailed analysis of the poverty situation in 2012 was published today in the "Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report 2012" by the Economic Analysis Division of the Economic Analysis and Business Facilitation Unit and the Census and Statistics Department.

     The Chief Secretary for Administration and Chairman of the CoP, Mrs Carrie Lam, pointed out that as an analysis tool, the poverty line has its limitations. For example, assets are not taken into account and this may overstate the number of people living in poverty. Hence, a poverty line should not be taken as the "poverty alleviation line". Moreover, under the the concept of "relative poverty", a poor population always exists statistically.

     Among the some 400 000 households below the poverty line after taking into account recurrent cash benefits, some 102 700 households (235 600 persons) were living on CSSA. The remaining 300 300 were non-CSSA households (782 200 persons). Analysed by their economic activity status, 11 300 households (27 700 persons) were unemployed, 143 500 households (493 200 persons) were working households and 145 500 households (261 300 persons) were economically inactive.

     Mrs Lam said that the CSSA has the most notable poverty alleviation impact among the recurrent cash policies, helping some 90 000 households leave poverty. Among some 100 000 CSSA households still living under the poverty line after policy intervention, almost 80 per cent were public housing tenants and some 10 per cent were living in self-financed private housing or Home Ownership Scheme flats. It is believed that they were not facing significant problems in terms of housing needs. However, the 140 000 non-CSSA working households would require priority concern. This group of households has a greater number of household members, with more than 80 per cent being households with three persons or more. The number of working household members is small while the number of dependants is high, with some 30 per cent being children and students and a dependency ratio of 1:2, i.e. one person to support the living of three persons. More importantly, around 90 per cent of the employed are engaged in low-skilled jobs and their incomes are relatively low.

     Mrs Lam added that, taking into account the vision on poverty alleviation set out in the Chief Executive's Election Manifesto and the data analysis for the poverty line, employment is the best way to tackle poverty. Three proposals have been raised on the future directions and strategies for poverty alleviation:

1. Providing work incentives should be the principal policy direction for poverty alleviation in future to encourage the working poor who are capable and willing to work to improve their livelihood through employment;

2. To target limited public resources on the most needy working poor households, especially families with a higher risk of poverty such as those with school-aged children/youths. Poverty alleviation measures should be employment-based on the one hand, while promoting upward mobility of the younger generation of these families at the same time to alleviate intergenerational poverty; and

3. The CSSA is effective in reducing poverty. Future improvements may focus on enhancing study-related support to children/youths in CSSA families, and explore strengthening work incentives for recipients.  

     In addition, the Chief Executive officiated at ceremonies for projects under three Task Forces, namely the inauguration ceremony for the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund (SIE Fund) and launching ceremonies for the Future Stars programme and the Talent-Wise Employment Charter and Inclusive Organisations Recognition Scheme. Details are as follows:

1. The SIE Fund has been set up with a $500 million allocation from the Lotteries Fund. It is tasked with alleviating and preventing poverty and social exclusion through innovation and cross-sectoral collaboration, in particular to help the needy in reinstating hope, dignity and self-worth. With a view to strengthening the existing ecosystem to nurture social innovation and social entrepreneurship, the SIE Fund will accord priority to three areas, namely capacity building, innovation programmes (projects which fulfil the objectives of poverty alleviation and prevention of poverty and social exclusion) and related research to support the smooth operation of the SIE Fund. It will not overlap with the functions of existing Government policies and funds, and will not replace existing social enterprises and private programme participants. Instead, it aims to complement with the above to create a synergy effect. The Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund Task Force expects to issue an open invitation in the fourth quarter of 2013 for proponents to become the first group of intermediaries to run programmes or projects that further the Fund's objectives. Application will not be limited to social service agencies or non-profit-making organisations. In addition, the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund Task Force will also start to explore a flagship project on food assistance;

2. The Future Stars programme is a three-year poverty alleviation programme launched by the Societal Engagement Task Force (SETF) targeting youths from grass-roots families. Through three specific projects, youths will be provided with workplace induction and career orientation as well as corporate visits and apprenticeship experience to broaden their horizons, help them set clearer goals for the future and assist them to move up the social ladder. Scholarships will be awarded to students from grass-roots families who counter adversity in a positive manner. The programme brings together poverty alleviation efforts and sponsorships from various business associations, professional bodies, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, the Hong Kong Jockey Club and organisations and individuals from different sectors of the community, establishing a tripartite partnership among the community, the business sector and the Government. The three projects will start rolling out towards the end of 2013 or in early 2014, with a target of securing the support of 500 organisations for the benefit of some 7 000 youths in the first year of implementation.  The Hong Kong Jockey Club has already allocated funding of $3 million for the "Upward Mobility Formula" project under the programme. The SETF is expecting to receive financial contributions from chambers of commerce and other bodies; and

3. The Talent-Wise Employment Charter and Inclusive Organisations Recognition Scheme (the Scheme) has been launched by the Labour and Welfare Bureau, the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and the Hong Kong Joint Council for People with Disabilities (the Organisers). It aims to mobilise the Government, public and subvented bodies, non-governmental organisations and commercial enterprises and private companies to make collective efforts to promote the employment of persons with disabilities through a host of sustainable measures commensurate with their modes of operation. The Special Needs Groups Task Force supports the Scheme. Representatives from over 30 organisations, including major chambers of commerce, employers and management associations, public utility corporations and major public and statutory bodies, took part at the launch ceremony for the Scheme today to become pioneer partners of the Scheme. The Organisers will encourage employers to participate in the Scheme through the pioneer partners and other networks as well as a host of promotional activities. A large-scale signing ceremony for the Scheme will be held in 2014. Details of the Scheme have been uploaded to the Labour and Welfare Bureau's website at www.lwb.gov.hk/charter_scheme.@

     In the second half of the Summit, the Chief Executive, the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Chairpersons/Vice-chairpersons of the Task Forces exchanged views with the participants on poverty alleviation strategies and work priorities. Representatives from various sectors eagerly expressed their views on how to tackle poverty in Hong Kong.

     The Chief Executive said that the setting of the Poverty Line shows the determination of the Administration in tackling the poverty problem. He considered the Summit a great success, enabling him to listen to views that were of useful reference. He would consider these views carefully with the Chief Secretary for Administration.

     Meanwhile, the CoP will continue to serve as the major policy platform for the Government's work in poverty alleviation. It will take into account the needs of poor households and public views to explore appropriate measures and initiatives to help the needy.

     Publications distributed at the Summit, including the Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report 2012, the presentation slides on Setting of the Poverty Line and Analysis of the Poverty Situation, the leaflet summarising the Work of the CoP and its Task Forces, and the Community Care Fund Booklet, have been uploaded to the CoP's dedicated website (www.povertyrelief.gov.hk).

Ends/Saturday, September 28, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:01

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