CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Call for universal retirement scheme

HONG KONG (SE): The results of a study carried out by the Caritas Hong Kong Community Development released on June 21 reveal deep worries among people at the grassroots of society in facing their sunset years, with over 60 per cent of those interviewed expressing their anger and disappointment at the refusal of the government to consider a universal retirement pension scheme.

They accused the government of ignoring the contribution they have made to society during their working lives and failing in its responsibility of care for their well-being.

In a society with an average life expectancy of 84, the study shows that the vast majority are only capable of sustaining their daily finances up until the age of 70, unless they receive an added injection of funds from the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance.

A social worker and spokesperson for Caritas, Westley Man Siu-chun, said that most people of 55 or over have average monthly expenses of $5,500, but their savings and retirement protection schemes can only bear this cost for a period of about three years, which is leaving them deeply concerned about what the government will come up with in terms of retirement protection.

The study collected views and information from 115 people across the social spectrum, 80 per cent of whom said that they are addressing the shortage in cash flow by economising in the areas of clothing (40.8 per cent), food (33.7 per cent) and social activities or entertainment (26.5 per cent).

More than half (60 per cent) said they are addressing the shortfall by continuing to work for as long as possible.

Man described the situation as worrying, as even though over 40 per cent said they will be able to get some support from their children, as they find this uncomfortable and feel like they are a burden on their families.

The big hope expressed was that the government would introduce a universal pension scheme and over 80 per cent said it would make a huge change to their lives, as well as their feeling of security and well-being, as the extra money would give more flexibility in making decisions about their lives.

A 67-year-old, who lives alone, said she received around $100,000 from her Mandatory Provident Fund when she retired two years ago, but with her only source of income today being the Old Age Living Allowance of around $2,300, she pulls up $2,000 to $3,000 short of her average living cost. So she has to eat into her savings.

She explained that although she owns her own flat, she does not think it is wise to rely on a reverse mortgage and is hoping that the government will not procrastinate and implement a universal pension scheme quickly.

A 63-year-old, who lives with his wife, said that his Mandatory Provident Fund amounted to $80,000 something at his retirement three years ago. 

However, he said he is blessed by his children, who provide him with necessary money for his daily expenses.

He said he supports a universal pension scheme, because he too does not want to be an economic burden on his children.

Caritas Hong Kong Community Development said in a statement that the government should give up its asset limit policy, as it means that senior citizens are only allowed to hold a small amount of money, which is not adequate to cover their needs and leaves them highly insecure.

On top of that, it says that the asset limit turns the scheme into another Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, which is demeaning for people, but a universal retirement pension scheme would improve the quality of life in retirement and give people a higher quality of choice.

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