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Commission on Poverty convenes fifth meeting in its second term

     The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, chaired the fifth meeting of the Commission on Poverty (CoP) in its second term this afternoon (May 22). Members continued discussions on retirement protection.

     Members discussed at previous meetings Pillars 2 and 4 under the multi-pillar retirement protection model, namely the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme as well as elderly services and family support respectively. At today's meeting, members deliberated on the retirement protection functions of Pillar 0. Under Hong Kong's retirement protection regime, Pillar 0 covers all social security schemes funded by public coffer, including the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme, the Old Age Living Allowance (OALA), the Old Age Allowance (OAA) and the Disability Allowance (DA). About 74 per cent of the elderly population is beneficiaries of these schemes. At the meeting, members were briefed on the social security system and the elderly poverty situation in Hong Kong.

     The poverty figures show that there has been a marked improvement in the elderly poverty situation since the full implementation of the OALA in April 2013. After recurrent cash policy interventions, the elderly poverty rate saw a drastic decrease of 14.4 percentage points in 2013, down from 44.9 per cent to 30.5 per cent, which is notably higher than the corresponding decrease recorded in 2012.

     Among the some 290 000 poor elderly persons, about 20 per cent are living on CSSA. Of the remaining 230 000 non-CSSA poor elderly persons, nearly 130 000 claimed that they did not have financial needs. These elderly persons may own some assets, reflecting the limitations of the poverty line of using income to measure poverty without considering assets. As to the remaining some 100 000 elderly persons who reported to be in financial needs, most of them are covered by social security assistance, including the OALA and the OAA.

     The CoP agreed that under the existing social security system, some elderly persons are still not adequately cared for and are in need of further assistance. Members agreed that as OAA and DA were both non-means-tested and not targeted for providing assistance to poor elderly, they may not be included in the present policy review. As to the means-tested OALA and CSSA, members considered that CSSA as the safety net of last resort under Hong Kong's social security system could provide protection for elderly persons who cannot support themselves after retirement. Its role is irreplaceable.  Nevertheless, members agreed to explore if there was any room for merging the standard rates of CSSA for the elderly and OALA, with a view to addressing the basic living needs of poor able-bodied elderly persons. The needs of poor elderly persons with special needs may continue to be addressed via the current CSSA system.

     Following the briefing on the MPF Scheme at the meeting on March 27, the CoP received further information provided by the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority. Members had a follow-up discussion on how to enhance the functions of the MPF as a pillar of retirement protection.

     In addition, given that the number of applications for the "One-off Living Subsidy for Low-income Households Not Living in Public Housing and Not Receiving CSSA" programme relaunched by the Community Care Fund in January this year might be more than the original estimate by around 15 000, the CoP endorsed an additional provision of around $142.83 million for the programme to deal with the increased applications. The estimated total provision for the programme would amount to around $610.95 million and the estimated number of beneficiary households would be increased to 68 100 after the adjustments. The application period for this programme will be closed on August 31.

Ends/Friday, May 22, 2015
Issued at HKT 20:46


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