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LCQ9: Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Lau Siu-lai and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Stephen Sui, in the Legislative Council today (February 15):
     In his Policy Address delivered last month, the Chief Executive proposed a new policy for the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme, under which the eligible age for elderly CSSA will be raised from 60 to 65, so as to align with the direction of the population policy to extend the retirement age. Upon the implementation of that policy, the monthly CSSA payment that new CSSA applicants who are single able-bodied persons aged between 60 and 64 may receive will be reduced by over $1,000, from the current $3,435 to $2,420 (i.e. the amount for single able-bodied adults aged under 60). In addition, the supplements and certain special grants for the elderly are not applicable to them. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective (i) employment rates, (ii) unemployment rates and (iii) numbers of CSSA recipients among the various age groups of the population in each of the past five financial years (set out separately in tables of the same format as the table below);
Financial year                                              Age group
15-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-64 65-70 Over 70
(2) of a breakdown of the number of CSSA recipients aged between 60 and 64 in each of the past five financial years, by their reasons for receiving CSSA payments;
(3) of the new measures that the authorities have put in place to raise the employment rate for people aged between 60 and 64, so as to dovetail with the implementation of the aforesaid policy;
(4) whether the authorities have assessed the impacts on the living standard of new CSSA applicants who are able-bodied persons aged between 60 and 64 arising from their not being granted, upon the implementation of the aforesaid policy, the various supplements and special grants which CSSA recipients of the same age group are receiving under the existing CSSA system; if they have assessed, of the details, and whether the authorities will make special arrangements to ensure that those people can still receive the various supplements and special grants offered under the existing system; if they have not assessed, the reasons for that; and
(5) given that non-elderly able-bodied CSSA recipients are required to participate in the Support for Self-reliance Scheme so that they may find paid employment as soon as possible, whether the authorities will, upon the implementation of the aforesaid policy, require new CSSA applicants who are able-bodied persons aged between 60 and 64 to participate in the Scheme; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

     My reply to the question raised by Dr Hon Lau Siu-lai is as follows:
(1) According to the General Household Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department, the unemployment rate with a breakdown by age groups from 2011 to 2015 is tabulated below:
Table 1: Unemployment rate with a breakdown by age groups^(%)
Calendar year#                                                             Age group
15-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-64 65-69 ≥70
2011 15.8 5.3 2.5 2.7 3.3 2.4 1.6 *
2012 13.9 5.3 2.4 2.8 2.9 2.5 0.8 *
2013 14.5 5.6 2.3 2.9 3.1 2.7 1.7 *
2014 12.5 5.4 2.2 2.7 3.0 3.0 2.6 2.4
2015 14.2 5.9 2.1 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.1 *
^ Unemployment rate refers to the proportion of unemployed persons in the labour force.
# The relevant unemployment rate refers to the yearly average of the calendar year.
* The figures are not published due to large sampling error.
     According to the record of the Social Welfare Department (SWD), the number of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients with a breakdown by age groups over the past five financial years is tabulated below:
Table 2: Number of CSSA recipients with a breakdown by age groups^
Financial year*                                                       Age group
15 - 19 20 - 29 30 - 39 40 - 49 50 - 59 60 - 64 65 - 69 ≥70
2011-12 38 491 13 611 26 254 50 107 50 961 28 512 27 701 129 857
2012-13 32 533 11 418 24 344 45 618 49 133 28 131 28 226 126 965
2013-14 28 412 10 690 24 017 42 651 46 429 27 428 28 081 122 938
2014-15 25 112 10 165 23 379 40 888 43 954 26 678 28 585 119 528
2015-16 22 657  9 349 21 764 38 392 41 692 25 902 29 339 115 673
^ The numbers refer to the overall numbers of recipients in the relevant age groups, i.e. including recipients who are able-bodied, disabled and in ill health.
* The numbers reflect the position as at March 31 of the relevant financial years. 
(2) The objective of the CSSA Scheme is to provide a safety net of last resort to families that cannot support themselves financially owing to old age, sickness, disability, single-parenthood, unemployment, low-earnings, etc. so as to help them meet their basic needs. The SWD does not keep breakdown statistics on the reasons of applying for CSSA by recipients aged 60 to 64 in each of the past five financial years.  

(3) Based on the findings of the "Study on the Training Needs of Mature Persons", the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) develops training and support services to cater for the needs of mature persons aged 50 or above, including organising the "Workplace Re-entry" course and activity series, so that mature persons may participate in accordance with their aspirations, interests and training needs. The ERB provides placement follow-up services for mature persons who have completed full-time placement-tied courses. On the other hand, the Government will continue to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to provide employment services for mature persons and promote their employment among employers through various means such as setting up special counters at the job centres of the Labour Department (LD), providing priority registration and job referral services for mature job-seekers, conducting employers' experience sharing sessions, organising employment briefings and job fairs targeted at mature persons, etc. The LD also implements the Employment Programme for the Middle-aged to encourage employers, through offering them on-the-job training allowance, to hire job seekers aged 40 or above and provide them with on-the-job training.

(4) Under the CSSA Scheme, elderly persons/ disabled persons/ persons in ill health will receive higher standard rates than able-bodied recipients.  Moreover, eligible elderly persons/ disabled persons/ persons in ill health will be granted supplements, such as Community living supplement, Long-term supplement, etc., and may, in accordance with their needs and circumstances, apply for special grants which are normally not applicable to able-bodied adults, such as the grants to costs of medical, rehabilitation, surgical appliances and hygienic items, etc.  

     Elderly persons aged between 60 and 64 who are receiving CSSA before the Government implements the new policy of raising the eligibility age for elderly CSSA from 60 to 65 will not be affected, except when they re-apply for CSSA after having left the CSSA net, in which case the revised definition of old age will apply to them.  Meanwhile, the CSSA payments of disabled persons or persons in ill health will not be affected by the new policy, i.e. they will, regardless of their age, receive CSSA payments which are higher than those applicable to able-bodied adults.
(5) SWD implements the "Support for Self-reliance Scheme" under the CSSA Scheme. It commissions non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to assist in implementing the Integrated Employment Assistance Programme for Self-reliance (IEAPS) to provide employable able-bodied CSSA recipients with employment assistance services. According to the needs of individual recipients, the relevant NGOs provide multifarious and one-stop employment assistance services, including assisting them in formulating job search plans, and providing them with information on employment, suitable training as well as post-employment support services, with a view to enhancing their employability and assisting them to sustain employment. The relevant arrangements do not apply to CSSA recipients who are in old age, disabled or in ill health. 

     New CSSA applicants aged 60 to 64 will be required to participate in the IEAPS (except for those who are disabled or in ill health) after the implementation of the policy of raising the eligible age for elderly CSSA from 60 to 65.
Ends/Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:48
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