To join the rank of Middle Class is often the deemed goal of salary-earners. There is no consensus on the definition of Middle Class. That said I would presume that those earning $30,000/$40,000 to $100,000 up a month are qualified. They have a stable and high-paid job, own their home and enjoy happy family. Nowadays, they are the symbol of stress instead. Such stresses come from work, home mortgage, education for children and even retirement planning. On the other hand, they are laden with obligations. In the unfortunate case of lay-off, it could be disastrous. It is not inexplicable that cases of the Middle Class seeking counseling have been on the rise.
The Middle Class is an integral part of society. Broadly speaking, they form the majority. Past experiences show that a strong Middle Class would mean social stability. On the contrary, a troubled Middle Class would mean social unhealthiness. Our Motion today is helping the Middle Class to relieve stress with improved policies.
First of all, accommodation is probably a greater anxiety than all other social class. The Middle Class is not qualified for public rental housing, and many are even ineligible for HOS flats. However, they have strong demand for homeownership. As incomes are relatively stable, they understandably have stronger desire for betting living. Thus, homeownership is almost their primary goal.
However, housing price has surged to an unaffordable level and the Middle Class is mostly affected. Housing is the largest single monthly outlay, either rent or mortgage repayment. Thus, our priority should be reducing their burden in this regard. All along, I have been urging the Government to supply adequate land for residential development, including small to medium flats, as a means of stabilizing the housing market. Meanwhile, tax deduction proposals for rental payment should also be considered and allow those who could not afford or are not prepared for homeownership to benefit. I also support further extending tax deduction for home mortgage repayment. As mortgage rate is very low in recent years, deductible interest payment is also substantially reduced correspondently. I urge the Government to improve this tax concession for the benefit of the Middle Class.
Education for children is the biggest headaches for Middle Class parents. Whenever primary or secondary entrance placements are released, there are always parents in tears for disappointed allotments. I thus realize the considerable stress that the education system has brought to children and parents. Many children enrolled in traditionally prestigious schools do not enjoy learning because it is too demanding. When they go abroad, however, they are fond of studying and will get good grades. It is understandable that many parents prefer international schools instead of local. However, it derives a new problem. Places in international schools are falling short of demand, affecting children of foreigners who have no other choice. Frankly, the local educational system has become an ordeal to parents. I urge the Government to face the problem and conduct a thorough review.
In the previous term of LegCo, I moved a Motion on Promoting New Occupational Culture Campaign on Work and Life Balance with a view to relieving work pressure and life distress. Actually, it is a proposal that meets the aspiration of Middle Class. As our economy is reaching maturity, opportunities for promotion and better pay are less forthcoming despite hardworking. As job satisfaction is diminishing, many workers would likely be frustrated by life and work. In my view, the Government might encourage people through different means to work-out and look for pursuits and past time like recreation and sports. They would then realize there is family and life besides career. Employers should also allow flexibility to workers in search of better balance between work and life/family.
In fact, the Middle Class is particularly displeased with imbalanced tax burden and welfare entitlement. In recent years, the Financial Secretary has raised parent and children allowances repeatedly but the Middle Class does not benefit much. In my view, the Government should provide more direct tax concessions apart from raising allowances, including deduction for medical insurance that the industry has been advocating for years. It would help make the Middle Class better prepared for medical problems. It is also my wish that tax deductions for insurance would be extended to other classes, including life insurance, and help the Middle Class prepares for and builds better faith on the future.
Lastly, we should not overlook the voluntary medical insurance scheme designed for the Middle Class. The scheme would grossly reduce their anxieties on medical expenses and is definitely helpful. The Government is preparing a draft plan and some of the details are still under discussions. I wish all parties might settle on an arrangement that would allow the insurance scheme to commence early.