Social welfare per capita: Hong Kong spends 76% more than Singapore?

I refer to the article “HK commission to tackle poverty” (Straits Times, Nov 10).

Singapore’s social welfare spending $2.13b

According to the Revenue and Expenditure Estimates for the Financial Year 2012/2013, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports’ (MCYS) Total Expenditure is $2.13 billion (Estimated FY2012).

Hong Kong’s social welfare spending $6.87b

In contrast, according to Hong Kong: The Facts, in 2012/13, the total estimated expenditure of Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department (SWD) is HK$43.5 billion (S$6.87 billion).

Hong Kong spends 76% more per capita?

On a spending per capita basis, Hong Kong’s is $981 against Singapore’s $558.

As Hong Kong’s resident population is about 7 million, against Singapore’s resident population of 3.82 million, Hong Kong is spending relatively more than Singapore, at about 76 per cent more.

Hong Kong has minimum wage

In May last year, Hong Kong instituted a minimum wage of HK$28 ($4.42), which is set to increase to HK$30 ($4.74).

In Singapore, calls for a minimum wage have been rejected.

Universal social welfare system

Unlike Singapore which essentially does not have a universal social welfare system, Hong Kong has a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA) which provides cash assistance to bring the income of needy households up to a prescribed level to meet basic livelihood needs.

Pension for elderly and disabled?

Unlike Singapore which has no national pension or disability scheme funded by the Government, Hong Kong has the “Social Security Allowance Scheme which comprises Old Age Allowance and Disability Allowance. It provides a flat-rate allowance to meet the special needs of the elderly and the severely disabled. Applicants for Old Age Allowance aged 65-69 are subject to a means test while those aged 70 and above are eligible regardless of their means. Disability Allowance is for those who suffer a disability broadly equivalent to a total loss of earning capacity”.

Independent appeals body

In addition, Hong Kong has an “Independent Social Security Appeal Board, comprising non-government members, which provides a means of redress for any person not satisfied with the decision of the SWD in respect of eligibility and payment of social security benefits”.

Free education

Hong Kong has 12 years of free and compulsory education for all school-aged children.

Universal healthcare?

Hong Kong has a universal public healthcare system which is heavily subsidised. It’s public healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP, at about 3 per cent, is more than Singapore’s 1.6 per cent.

Compassion and emphathy?

The article “PM: Nation’s success must be measured by values too” (Straits Times, Nov 10) said, “Success is not just about economic growth but growth in values such as compassion and empathy”.

So, in the spirit of the values of compassion and emphathy, perhaps we could try to spend more and have a universal social welfare and healthcare system like Hong Kong.

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.