10 New Initiatives To Benefit Livelihood Hong Kong Citizens From The Government

  • January 15,2020
  • The Hong Kong government has announced 10 new initiatives for over a million grassroots and underprivileged citizens to take benefits. The initiatives include:

      1. Reform of the Old Age Living Allowance Scheme (OALA)
      2. Expansion of the HK$2 transport fare concession scheme
      3. Paying Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contributions for low-income persons
      4. Increase of the number of statutory holidays (progressively)
      5. Improvement of the remuneration packages for employees under government outsourced service contracts
      6. Providing cash allowance for low-income households not living in public housing and not receiving CSSA
      7. Conducting a study on tenancy control of sub-divided units
      8. Further increase of transitional housing
      9. Providing a time-limited cash allowance for the unemployed
      10. Providing a time-limited cash allowance for the under-employed

    Reform of the Old Age Living Allowance Scheme (OALA)

    The Government suggested combining the Normal OALA and Higher OALA with a standard monthly payment rate of $3,585, i.e. the monthly payment rate for Higher OALA, and significantly raising the standardized asset limit to $500,000.

    The monthly income limit for current recipients of Higher OALA and Normal OALA is $7,970 while the asset limit and the monthly allowance are $150,000 and $3,585 respectively for the former and $343,000 and $2,675 respectively for the latter. There are about 510 000 Higher OALA recipients and about 50 000 Normal OALA recipients. They are elderly people aged 65 or above.

    Some 50,000 current recipients of Normal OALA can receive $910 more per month upon implementation of the proposal and those who have assets of less than $500,000 can receive OALA of $3,585 per month.

    Expansion of the HK$2 transport fare concession scheme

    The Government Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities, commonly known as the $2 transport fare concession was first launched in 2012.

    The Government proposed to lower the eligible age of the Scheme from the current 65 to 60, benefiting about 600,000 silver-age persons aged 60 to 64.

    Details of the implementation timetable will be announced upon completion of the review of the Scheme by the Labor and Welfare Bureau and the Transport Department in the first half of 2020.

    Paying Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contributions for low-income persons

    The Government will pay the 5 per cent contributions on behalf of low-income employees and self-employed persons who are exempted from making MPF contributions. About 200,000 people whose monthly income is less than $7,100 will benefit. The proposal will be carried out upon the implementation of the eMPF Centralized Platform by the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority in 2024.

    Increase of the number of statutory holidays (progressively)

    The Employment Ordinance currently provides for 12 days of statutory holidays a year but the General Holidays Ordinance provides for 17 days of public holidays a year. To allow all employees to enjoy the same number of holidays in order to address society’s longstanding concern about unfair treatment, the Government will ask the Labor Advisory Board to work out a proposal to increase progressively the number of statutory holidays so that it is eventually on par with the number of public holidays. It is estimated that more than one million employees will benefit from the proposal. The Government will facilitate and support its work.

    Implementing the proposal progressively is expected facilitate businesses to shoulder the additional expenditure involved and make adjustments to their operation.

    Improvement of the remuneration packages for employees under government outsourced service contracts

    In the 2018 Policy Address, the HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced improvement measures for the tendering of government service contracts (e.g. cleaning services) to enhance the remuneration packages and protection for the interests of non-skilled employees, and increase the weighting of wage levels in tender assessments thus avoiding the lowest bid wins.

    The new policy achieved impressive results in improving the remuneration for workers. The Labor and Welfare Bureau will complete a review by the end of this year and will consider further improvement measures.

    Providing cash allowance for low-income households not living in public housing and not receiving CSSA

    The Government will, on a trial basis, provide a cash allowance to eligible General Applicant households which have been waiting for public rental housing for more than three years, until they are offered the first public rental housing allocation. Approximately 91,900 General Applicant households waiting for public rental housing for more than three years will benefit.

    In determining the rate of cash allowances, reference will be made to the level at about half of the CSSA rent allowance ceiling. The trial scheme is expected to be launched in the second half of next year, with a review to be conducted three years after implementation.

    Noting that providing cash allowances can alleviate the on-going pressure faced by grassroots citizens from renting private property, Mrs Lam said that the Government will set higher household monthly income limits under the Working Family Allowance Scheme for non-CSSA low-income families that have not applied for public rental housing or have been waiting for public rental housing for less than three years. It will enable them to receive a higher rate of allowance. It is expected to be implemented in the second half of next year, benefiting about 9,000 households.

    Conducting a study on tenancy control of sub-divided units

    It is estimated that about 86,500 families have been living in subdivided units for a long time, while bearing heavy rents and unfavorable rental arrangements. There are suggestions that without proper rental regulations, assistance provided by the Government, such as rental subsidies or electricity and water charge reductions, will hardly benefit the target households. The Transport and Housing Bureau will set up a task force to study feasible options on the tenancy control of subdivided units.

    Further increase of transitional housing

    It was said in the 2019 Policy Address that 10,000 transitional housing units will be provided over the next three years.

    Through the collaboration of community, businesses and Government, land has been identified to achieve the original target.

    To build on our efforts, we will raise the three-year target to 15,000 units, of which 2,000 will be built on multiple Government, Institution or Community sites that currently have no firm development schedule.

    Providing a time-limited cash allowance for the unemployed

    Due to the deterioration of economic and employment conditions, from April 1 this year to March 31 next year, individuals who have been unemployed for one month or longer and have received assistance from the Working Family Allowance or Student Financial Assistance Schemes before April this year may apply for a cash allowance for that month and for a maximum of three months.

    The Community Care Fund Task Force will work out details of the scheme. Payment of the allowance is expected to commence in October this year at the earliest.

    Providing a time-limited cash allowance for the under-employed

    At present, applicants who meet the requirements of working hours, income and asset limits may apply for the Working Family Allowance.

    In view of worsening under-employment, the Government proposes that, from April 1 of 2020 to March 31 of 2021, individuals who have received Working Family Allowance in certain months and meet the reduced total monthly working hour requirement for other months may still apply for cash allowance in the respective months with a maximum of three months. The Community Care Fund Task Force will work out details of the scheme, which is expected to be launched in October this year at the earliest.

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