Living Below the Poverty Line in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has an international reputation for big business, investment banking, upmarket shopping and world class dining. Few people realise that many people in Hong Kong struggle to get by. The Chicago tribune reports that more than 1.1 million people, or 17 percent of Hong Kong’s population, lived below the poverty line in 2011.

The Hong Kong government does provide social welfare support for people in need. However, many Hong Kong residents do not qualify for subsidies and rely on charity to survive.

Action Care is a small NGO which provides a variety of services for Hong Kong’s poor. Their outreach includes food support, general wellbeing visits, medical care and homework help and play activities for children.

People who make use of Action Care’s services are mostly immigrants from the mainland. They have come to Hong Kong in hope of a better life, often for the sake of their children. Many are trying to escape rural poverty and want their children to have a good education. They do not qualify for social welfare support until they have lived in Hong Kong for seven years. For some, family breakdown leaves them struggling to provide as single parents. For other, they decide it is worth seven years of scraping to get by for the benefits the wait will bring. For all of them, not only do they face hardship in providing for their basic needs, but also they face discrimination and disdain from Hong Kong locals.

Organisations like Action Care are important because they provide a supporting community for people who live a difficult life. Poverty is isolating. Families like Goh Yuet Sheung’s become consumed by the stress and pressure of securing basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. They have no time or money for recreation and relaxation, which causes emotional and physical problems. Almost all of the people I interviewed said that the best thing about Action Care was that they had made friends and found people to talk to.