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Deprivation and Poverty in Hong Kong



Despite high and rising real incomes, the poverty rate in Hong Kong remains a cause of community concern. The government has been reluctant to set a poverty line, although the recently (re-)established Commission on Poverty has recommended that a poverty line for Hong Kong is developed. Against this background, this article reports results derived from a new deprivation study designed to shed new light on the living standards of the poorest in the community. Reflecting international studies, deprivation is identified as existing when people do not have and cannot afford items regarded by a majority in the community as being essential for all. A list of 35 basic needs items is identified as meeting this definition, the results indicating that around 30 per cent are deprived of at least two items, over 18 per cent are deprived of at least four items and 10 per cent are deprived of at least eight items. Deprivation rates are particularly high among items that meet basic health needs. A mean deprivation score index (MDIS) is then used to compare the degree of deprivation experienced by different groups, and indicates that deprivation is most pronounced amongst those receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), people affected by a disability and recent migrants. The overlap between deprivation and income poverty is also relatively low, which suggests both measures have a role to play in identifying who is most vulnerable and guiding where policy change is most urgently needed.