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People with Disabilities in Hong Kong Twice as Likely to Face Poverty

  • Publish Date : 2015/01/19 - (Rev. 2018/04/11)
  • Author : South China Morning Post*

Synopsis:

Almost half of people with disabilities living in Hong Kong live in poverty, more than double the rate for the general population.

Main Document

Released last night on the Commission on Poverty's website, the report sparked calls for more action to help people with disabilities enter the workforce and claim welfare.

Poverty

The study found that some 45.3 per cent of people with disabilities live in households that are below the poverty line, against 19.9 per cent of the general population. After taking into account "policy intervention" - such as welfare - the rates fall to 29.5 per cent and 14.5 per cent, respectively.

The difference is starkest among people of working age, where the poverty rate is 35.9 per cent, against 14.2 per cent for all people aged 18 to 64.

More than half of elderly with disabilities were in poverty, against 44.9 per cent for all people aged 65 and over.

Some 28.2 per cent of disabled children were in poverty.

"This proves that with a disabled person in your family, poverty will be your number one concern," said lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who previously worked with the Society for Rehabilitation to do a survey on the same issue.

He called for a change in the rules for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, the government's catch-all welfare program, so people with disabilities could apply as individuals even if their household did not qualify.

"But ultimately, CSSA is not the most dignified thing. The best is to set up a contributory social insurance system," he said.

Employment

The report also identified lack of participation in the labor market as a key issue.

Walter Tsui, a visually impaired man who works in project development for a social enterprise, says society needs to break away from the stereotype that people with disabilities can only do certain jobs.

"Many companies say they are willing to employ people with disabilities, but is it easy to get those jobs? Many people with disabilities may be capable, but are they presentable in the employers' eyes" Tsui said. "It's about networks. If I send in a CV, I'll get interviews but will never be hired ... there are formed ideas that somehow people with disabilities are not as capable."

Underestimate

Chua Hoi-wei, CEO of the Council of Social Service, said 45.3 per cent was probably an underestimate.

"The poverty line is drawn for the whole population, but families with disabled members usually have higher medical, transportation costs," Chua said. He urged the government to help people with disabilities find jobs and provide more support for families and carers.

The government has increased its focus on poverty in recent years, setting a first official poverty line, at half the median household income, last year. But two previous reports on poverty did not cover disabled people as a specific category.

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