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Escape from poverty 2016.11.01
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One out of every 10 people in Hong Kong is a millionaire, according to the projections from a bank survey. So why do we still see so many old people pushing cartloads of cardboard to survive?

THERE is absolute poverty (絕對貧窮) and relative poverty (相對貧窮).A person in absolute poverty cannot afford basic human needs – clean water, food, clothing and shelter. According to the World Bank, each person in this category has only US$1.90 (HK$14.80) or less to survive each day.

Relative poverty is about lacking a socially acceptable level of income or assets compared with others in an affl uent society.

Why do we need a poverty line?

IN 2012, the Commission on Poverty (COP,扶貧委員會) set Hong Kong’s first official poverty line. Those who earn less than half of the median monthly income are regarded as poor.

Currently the poverty line is set at HK$3,500, HK$8,600 and HK$16,400 for one, two and four-person households respectively. The yardstick provides an objective defi nition of poverty and gives a clear direction for the government to help the needy.

Is the poverty line a solution?

SETTING a poverty line was a good start. But government still has to do more to eradicate the crisis. In recent years it has launched the Comprehensive Social Security Allowance, Low-income Working Family Allowance and the Community Care Fund.

The COP says as a result, 370,000 people were lifted from poverty last year. Just under one million people remain poor, but non-governmental organisations put the number at 1.34 million.

The poverty line has limitations. Those who earn slightly above the benchmark are often left out of poverty-alleviation policies. Critics say apart from fi nancial assistance, the needy should be given more opportunities for upward social mobility. There is still a long way to go before the wealth gap in Hong Kong is narrowed and everyone is blessed with prosperity.

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