Hong Kong poverty rate jumps to historic high

Official figures released on Wednesday showed that the number of people facing poverty in Hong Kong rose sharply to more than 1.6 million last year – the highest since the administration set an official poverty line in 2013 – though the increase was offset by government handouts.

The data showed that, before taking into account government support, the poverty rate was 23.6 percent of the population. That’s up from 21.4 percent in 2019.

However, when factoring in government intervention – in the form of social welfare payments, one-off relief measures, and means-tested benefits such as public rental housing – the poverty rate was 7.9 percent, or around 550,000 people.

That was actually down on the figure for 2019, when 9.2 percent of people in the SAR experienced poverty.

The final statistics reflect how a huge package of one-off government relief measures, including a HK$10,000 cash handout, helped reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The official figures also showed that poverty lines lowered for households of different sizes, with authorities attributing the phenomenon to a fall in employment and an ageing population.

The government added that the future poverty situation will depend on the development of the coronavirus pandemic and how the local economy recovers.

The statistics were prepared by the office of the government economist and the Census and Statistics Department. They define poverty as living in a household with an income that’s below 50 percent of the median.