Motion on “Helping the Poor and Underprivileged”(2010.02.04)

Speech of the Hon K P Chan, JP at the Legislative Council on 4 February 2010, Motion Debate on Caring for the Poor and the Disadvantaged

MR PRESIDENT: The Motion proposed by the Hon Tam Yiu-chung on “Caring for the Poor and the Disadvantaged” today is very meaningful.

Hong Kong is facing so many underlying problems. Apart from political and economic issues, various social conflicts, particularly widening rich/poor gap, the poor getting poorer and retarded social mobility for young people etc, are aggravating grievances of the community at large.

In order to make Hong Kong a harmonized and more caring society, the Government should take issues underlying these conflicts serious. We must dare to face those issues and find out their root cause before we may duly tackle and resolve them.

Mr President, I would like to elaborate on widening rich/poor gap today. In Hong Kong, statistics on poverty from actual number of the poor to Ginny’s Coefficient of income disparity are staying high. It is the Government’s obligation to find means of resolving poverty, but such effort would be grossly discounted if the root cause were not dealt with.

In fact, the widening rich/poor gap and imbalanced income distribution that have been escalating internal social conflicts are inseparable from population policy of the Government.

According to immigration figures, arrivals from Mainland from 2004 to Q3 2009 under single-journey permit varied between 33,000 and 55,000 persons a year. They amounted to 260,995 people in total.

Let me analysis and share two sets of data here. Immigration figures for the period also show that on average over 70 per cent of those arrived each year was aged 15 years or older, with median age for the year varied between 27 years and 29 years.

As for their educational level, again more than 70 per cent of those arrived each year had attained high school and some 10 percent had university qualifications. On job experience before moving to Hong Kong, 40 percent to 50 percent of them were housekeepers at home and 7 percent to 12 percent were not working.

These statistics reflect that some 70 percent on arrival under single-journey permit each year were over 15 years of age with the mean falling between 27 years and 29 years.

Education attainment of the majority was high schooling. With such qualifications, many of them would have to accept lower pay jobs.

Moreover, most of these new arrivals were brought up on the Mainland and gained their working experience there. It would take time for them to settle down after arrival, and some might even need Government assistance.

Home Affairs Department conducts annual surveys on people resettled from the Mainland to find out their livelihood in Hong Kong and problems encountered. The survey covers those aged 11 years and above arriving under single-journey permit.

On reviewing survey results of the past six years, I find that on average more than half of the respondents each year encountered difficulties at workplace. About 50 percent to 60 percent each year also needed help in finding jobs.

These surveys also revealed that the main source of income of 70 percent to 80 percent of the respondents each year was wage. Their median household income as reported in the annual surveys varied from HK$6,500 to HK$7,800 a month only.

These statistics call for the Government to study in depth poverty arising from unemployment and low income under the current population policy.

I am in favour of family reunion on humanity ground. In fact, the Government has the duty to facilitate. However, its population policy should be complemented with practical measures including innovative approaches to optimize the policy and deal with the reality.

Otherwise, the poor would only get poorer. The more are people to face the pain of poverty, the more will society face the shock of conflicts.

The original Motion and proposed amendments tabled today are putting forward many recommendations to the benefit of people of all ages and classes, from children to elderly. I agree to them all. Finally, I urge Government to listen to suggestions of fellow Members and consider them carefully. I also look forward to bold and forward-looking policy proposals to resolve the growing problem of poverty in Hong Kong.

With these remarks, I support the Motion.

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