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One in five Hong Kong residents living in poverty

Hong Kong

MORE than one-fifth of Hong Kong's 7.4 million population were living in poverty last year, the government said Monday, as the city faces an ageing population and its sky-high housing prices continue to put more families under greater burden.

Those below the poverty line - an individual earning less than HK$4,000 (S$701) a month, or a family of four with a monthly household income of under HK$19,900 - increased by 1.85 per cent to a record 1.38 million at the end of 2017. That boosted the poverty rate to 20.1 per cent, the highest since 2010.

The number of people living in poverty fell to about one million after taking into account of the government's cash handouts through regular social welfare programmes. The post-intervention poverty rate was 14.7 per cent, the same level as that of 2016.

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The child poverty rate climbed 0.3 percentage points from the previous year to 23.1 per cent, because more children fell under the poverty threshold of larger households as more families stay with their elderly parents, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said in a press conference Monday.

The poverty line only takes into account income but not assets.

The impact of an increased minimum wage, which took effect in May 2017, would be better reflected in 2018 data, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said in the same briefing, adding poverty statistics will face "greater upward pressures" due to continued adjustment of poverty line thresholds with wage increase.

Hong Kong's economic growth is forecast to slow to 3.2 per cent in 2018 after expanding 3.8 per cent last year, amid uncertainties from the US-China trade war and a slowing mainland economy. BLOOMBERG