CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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Knowing the reason behind poverty

HONG KONG (SE): In response to the second World Day of the Poor, the Commission for Labour Affairs in Hong Kong organised a series of activities under the title, Wages and Poverty, during the months of October and November to address the situations of the grassroots, particularly cleaning workers employed under the government’s outsourcing system.
 
Addressing a forum organised by the commission on November 18, the World Day of the Poor, at St. Bonaventure Church, Wong Tai Sin, Wong Hung, an associate professor at the Department of Social Work of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he believes that the main reason for the struggles of cleaning workers is the government’s outsourcing mechanism which allows the lowest bidder to win a contract to minimise costs. This has worsened the living conditions of the poor in the city. 
 
Wong added that, according to a recent survey, over 80 per cent of contract workers involved in government projects were only given the minimum wage. Furthermore, they are not given any protection as the majority had to work even when the black rainstorm warning signal is raised and some are even required to buy their own protective equipment.
 
Wong believes that in terms of improving the living standards of the grassroots, the Minimum Wage Ordinance has lost its significance, as wage increments fail to keep up with inflation.
 
He called on the government to establish a wage level that allows people to live a reasonable life and proposed a living wage of $55 per hour, considering the cost of food, housing and family burdens.
 
Chan Fuk-ming, a 71-year-old contract cleaning worker who receives the minimum wage, talked about the difficulty of making both ends meet every month. He also shared his experiences of having part of his severance payment withheld and being underpaid.
 
“Care of the poor should not be out of pity or sympathy, but out of love,” Father Timothy Wan Kwok-kwong said. 
 
The priest said love for the poor means not only showing concern through works of charity, but also an understanding of the real causes of poverty, such as bad policies, and having the courage to speak out against them.
 
The social concern group of St. Jerome’s Church, Tin Shui Wai, talked about their experiences in developing friendships through visiting the cleaning workers during the past three years with the support of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers in the New Territories. 
 
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing celebrated the Mass during which all the participants were commissioned to hear the voice of the poor and given a pin badge commemorating the second World Day of Poor. 
 
Angela Lee Ngan-kwan, formation officer of the labour commission, hoped that these activities would help lay people to develop deeper concern for the poor.
 
The World Day of the Poor was established by Pope Francis in his apostolic letter, Misericordia et Misera (Mercy and Misery), issued on 20 November 2016, to mark the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and is celebrated on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. 

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