Speech of the Hon KP Chan to Move Amendment to the Motion on Alleviating Disparity between the Rich and the Poor (Synopsis):
• Despite increasing public attention and efforts to narrow the rich/poor disparity, it seems that the question of poverty is only getting worse. A key issue not much debated is the lack of government measures to address unemployment and poverty arising in new migrants from the Mainland. My Amendment is to ask the Government to study and review the population policy from the perspective of poverty. That said, I reiterate that such study and review should not neglect an overriding consideration in family reunion. In fact, migration policy is but one source of poverty.
• Over half-a-million people resettled in Hong Kong in the last 10 years on single-journey permits. The figure is equivalent to 7 percent of our latest population. Among them, 360,000 were aged 15 and above on arrival and they have given rise to two issues for concern. First, education attainment: Of these 360,000 migrants, more than 90 percent have secondary schooling at most and 20 percent only have primary schooling. Second, working experience: More than half of them were homemakers while in the Mainland. As Hong Kong has changed into a knowledge economy, these migrants are qualified for low-income jobs only on arrival. As such, the Government should look into the questions of low-income and unemployment arising from the population policy.
• The community has been reluctant to discuss poverty in conjunction with population policy. Perhaps, it is deliberate because family reunion and even social discrimination are sensitive subjects. Family reunion is a basic human right and should not be unduly impeded. However, it does not mean that the Government’s hands are tied. Moreover, avoidance is never a plausible choice because it would simply make the situation worse. Unless the Government faces the reality, assesses the impact and plans ahead, it would not be well prepared.
• Tin Shui Wai is a straightforward case in point. Most residents are new migrants and CSSA recipients. There are insufficient base-level jobs in the New Town and it is not easy for them to find work elsewhere. In the wake of poverty and helplessness, the community is filled with negative sentiment. It was not until recurrence of fatal incidents that the Government began to realize seriousness of the situation and started to mobilize community support and employment service like transport subsidies, one-stop training and employment and establishment of telephone betting centres. I believe that when these measures are all put in place they would help ease poverty and derived social problems. In hindsight, if the Government had been better prepared for the influx of migrants, Tin Shui Wai would not have become a town of despair.
• I support the establishment of a high level committee to coordinate the studies and strategies in poverty. However, this committee would need the combined mandates of the former Commission on Poverty and the former Task Force on Economic Challenges before it might tackle the problem at source. The former Commission on Poverty focused on studying prevention and relief of poverty but could not deal with poverty arising from structural problems of the economy. Therefore, the new committee should possess the dual function of promoting economic development and creating job opportunities. It should be capable of advising the Government on economic development with a view to creating more jobs that meet market demand. There is no better way to resolve poverty than tackling it at source.