CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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Universal retirement protection

The Catholic Church began its presence in Hong Kong in the mid-19th century with caring for the needs of the poor as one of its major aims. During those early days it addressed the many social problems in the territory, particularly since the colonial government did not have any comprehensive social welfare or educational policies.

This reflected an age-old understanding of the mission of the Church to care for the whole person, both the spiritual and the physical.

During Lent in this Jubilee of Mercy, John Cardinal Tong Hon is appealing to people to take an interest in the Retirement Protection Forging Ahead consultation document that was launched by the government in February.

The bishop of Hong Kong reiterated that the Church hopes that the government of the special administrative region will set up a retirement protection scheme which can really benefit all citizens and look to preventing poverty, rather than simply looking to alleviate it. This appeal will continue throughout the consultation period.

As a Church, we should express the social commitment that Christians should make by supporting a retirement scheme to benefit all citizens to live with dignity, without the fear of seeing their lives sink into poverty.

Many people may intuitively tend to support the according to financial needs option put forth by the government on the basis that social resources should be used only on those with urgent needs.

The regardless of rich or poor option may well prompt some to wonder why public funds should be spent on those who are not poor, but society does not see a contradiction in this, as the current free and universal education for children policy operates across the board, not on a rich or poor basis.

If we don’t object to this policy and even support the government plan to extend the subsidy to early childhood education, they what is the problem with an age protection policy?

We should also ask why the public medical scheme is going to be means-tested and why we should be willing to accept this.

The Church considers that people in their sunset years are entitled to enjoy retirement benefits. A government protection scheme is not a charity, but a return on the contribution already made to society. It is reasonable for people to expect to enjoy retirement benefits in their old age.

While society as a whole is willing to provide the younger generation with welfare to enable them to grow healthily, why should it not be willing to protect the livelihood of people at the other end of the age scale?

The according to financial needs only option proposed by the government can be described as a minor expansion of the current poverty alleviation policy, which is far from being the real retirement protection which the Church expects.

At the same time, the option currently proposed by the government actually would not achieve the aim of poverty prevention, but could rather tempt those with meagre savings to squander them in exchange for a small living allowance. This not only is a humiliation, but a creation of a new underclass.

 

As Christians, are we willing to shoulder the responsibility and make a concerted effort to encourage society to develop a sustainable retirement protection scheme which can benefit all citizens? SE