In Hong Kong, one in five are living in poverty

Those below the poverty line increased to a record 1.38 million at the end of 2017, boosting Hong Kong's poverty rate to the highest since 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - More than one-fifth of Hong Kong's 7.4 million population were living in poverty last year, the government said, as the city faces an ageing population and its sky-high housing prices continue to put more families under greater burden.

Those below the poverty line - an individual earning less than HK$4,000 (S$700) a month, or a family of four with a monthly household income of under HK$19,900 - increased by 1.85 per cent to a record 1.38 million at the end of 2017, it said on Monday (Nov 19). That boosted the poverty rate to 20.1 percent, the highest since 2010.

The number of people living in poverty fell to about 1 million after taking into account of the government's cash handouts through regular social welfare programs. The post-intervention poverty rate was 14.7 per cent, the same level as that of 2016.

Child poverty rate climbed 0.3 percentage points from the previous year to 23.1 per cent, because more children fell under the poverty threshold of larger households as more families stay with their elderly parents, Secretary for Labor and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said in a press conference Monday.

The poverty line only takes into account income but not assets.

The impact of increased minimum wage, which took effect May 2017, would be better reflected in 2018 data, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said in the same briefing, adding poverty statistics will face "greater upward pressures" due to continued adjustment of poverty line thresholds with wage increase.

Hong Kong's economic growth is forecast to slow to 3.2 per cent in 2018 after expanding 3.8 percent last year, amid uncertainties from the US-China trade war and a slowing mainland economy.

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