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Poverty and single elders in Hong Kong

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2002

Department of Public and Social Administration, City University of Hong Kong.
Department of Public and Social Administration, City University of Hong Kong.


This paper proposes a methodology for measuring poverty among people aged 60 years or more and living alone in Hong Kong. It uses a lifestyle approach and is based on an index of subjective perceptions of deprivation consisting of 79 indicators. These cover the main expenditure categories of single elders in Hong Kong: housing, food, clothing, durable goods, fuel and water, entertainment and social activities, medical care and transport. We tentatively identify a poverty threshold of HK $7,000 per month in regard to these expenditure categories. With incomes below $6,000, respondents reduce spending on miscellaneous items and, at incomes of $5,000, they reduce spending on clothing, entertainment and social activities and transport. At incomes below $4,000, they cut down on food, durable goods, and fuel and water expenditure. As incomes drop below $4,000, respondents are forced to cut to a significant degree the ‘necessities’ of life, in particular food, to make ends meet. Despite this, levels of transfer payments to Hong Kong's eligible single elders are currently below this amount. It is noteworthy that respondents do not reduce housing, medical care, services and ‘other’ expenses when their incomes are below $7,000 per month. We conclude that Hong Kong's status as a ‘tiger welfare regime’, and in particular its relatively comprehensive provision of public housing and health care, helps to explain this finding.

Research Article
© 2002 Cambridge University Press

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