One in every five people is living in deprived social conditions in Hong Kong - a city regarded as one of the wealthiest in the world - a survey has found. The Hong Kong Council of Social Service also said that if its survey was confined to dole recipients only, the ratio of those deprived of basic necessities would shoot past one in two. A person is considered deprived if he cannot afford four or more of the 35 specified basic living conditions. These include a safe environment with no structural danger, being able to eat breakfast every day, able to consult a private doctor in case of emergency, and having at least one set of decent clothes.
The council surveyed more than 1,000 members of the public and 700 underprivileged people, including Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients, the elderly and the disabled. It found that 18 percent of the public lack four or more of the listed basic items whereas the ratio surges to 56 percent for CSSA dependents. "Eighteen percent is an alarming number but not surprising because rising rents and food inflation have all combined to make more people vulnerable to deprivation these days," said social welfare sector lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che, adding that people struggle to meet their basic needs primarily because of soaring property prices.
On average, Hongkongers are unable to afford about two basic living conditions, compared with five for social security recipients.Council chief executive Christine Fang Meng-sang said the CSSA safety net is failing to guarantee basic living standards for the poor. "We need a well- rounded social policy to give them welfare services and increase their access to work," Fang said.
The study found that CSSA recipients also suffer from a serious lack of medical support. Nearly 60 percent do not have regular dental checkups while more than half cannot afford to consult a private doctor when they get ill. According to the Social Welfare Department, there are 274,630 low-income people in the CSSA scheme, or close to 4 percent of the population.
Professor Wong Hung of the Chinese University of Hong Kong's department of social work said those who are relatively well-off may also become deprived if their family size is large or medical expenses consume a big chunk of their income. "It's a shame that so many residents of one of the world's richest cities lack some basic necessities of life," he said.
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