25 Jul 2013

Lunch meeting: Speaker: Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Secretary for Labour and Welfare

As President Adrian was out of town, PE Betty was the Acting President today.

Our speaker today was Mr. Cheung Kin Chong, Secretary for Labour and Welfare, his topic was ” Implications for an ageing population in Hong Kong”. 

    Matthew said the elderly population increased as well as the dependency ratio, which will result in a surge in expenditures on health care and welfare.

    He spoke about financial assistance for our senior citizens who are in need. At present, financial support for elderly persons is mainly provided through the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, Old Age Allowance, Disability Allowance and the recently introduced Old Age Living Allowance (OALA). Nearly 80 percent of the elderly aged 65 or above are receiving assistance or allowance of different types under the social security system. The percentage of elderly people aged 70 or above receiving assistance or allowance reaches a hefty 87 per cent.

    The new Old Age Living Allowance, which was rolled out in April this year. This allowance is an additional financial support measure for the needy elderly and Matthew expects it to benefit some 400000 elderly citizens and improve their livelihood.

    There has been heated debate on whether it is time for Hong Kong to reform our retirement protection and put in place the so-called universal retirement protection. This is a highly controversial and complicated issue as it entails financial commitment and contribution on the part of the individual employees, all employers and the Government.

    The Community Care Service Voucher Pilot Scheme highlighted in this year’s Policy Address is one example. We will launch the first phase of the Pilot Scheme on Community Care Service Voucher for the Elderly in September this year, said the Secretary. The scheme adopts an innovative funding mode of “money follows the user” and enables more flexible choice of community care services by the elderly. This also helps attract more service providers and thus be conducive to the development of a more vibrant community care services market in Hong Kong.

    They will continue to increase day care places in the conventional funding mode and extend the service hours of new day care centres for the elderly.

    Apart from community care, residential care is also a key element of the elderly care services. At present, the Government provides about 26,000 subsidised residential care places, serving about 43 per cent of all elderly staying in residential care homes for the elderly throughout the territory. Noting the keen demand for residential care places of the frail ones, we will continue to increase the number of subsidised residential care places for the elderly through a multi-pronged approach, ranging from short to long-term. We will explore the feasibility of incorporating residential care home facilities into redevelopment projects, and convert vacant buildings into residential care homes for the elderly. We are also discussing with social welfare organisations on how to make better use of land owned by non-governmental organisations through redevelopment or expansion to provide diversified subvented and self-financing facilities. Meanwhile, we will continue to buy good-quality places from private elderly homes to augment our pool of subsidised places. From now to 2015-16, we will provide some 1 200 new subsidised places. We have also earmarked eight development projects for construction of new elderly homes.

    A further impetus to encourage our senior citizens to fuse into society, widen their social network, see more of their families and work as volunteers is the implementation of Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disability, or more commonly known as the “$2 Scheme”. People aged 65 or above can now move around by MTR, franchised buses and ferries for just $2 per trip. The Scheme is designed to benefit more than 980 000 elderly people aged 65 or above and 130 000 eligible persons with disabilities. The daily average passenger trips using MTR, buses and ferries under the Scheme is around 660 000 and the estimated expenditure for the Scheme, which is borne by the Government, is around $600 million in 2013-14.

  The high-powered Steering Committee on Population Policy will discuss the feasibility of introducing flexible employment terms or plans to extend the retirement age. This would not only help replenish Hong Kong’s dwindling workforce, but provide gainful work conducive to promoting the health and well-being of retirees.

    Rtn Laurence collected HK$910 for raffle and fines, Matthew helped to draw the raffle gift, which was a box of Chocolate won by Rtn Michael Wan.